First came table manners, now it's online manners Chelsea Clark seeks expert advice on how to put your children on the right track.
Like it or not, your kids are part of the digital world. The internet, mobile phones, emails and, of course, Facebook, all form integral parts of their 21st-century daily lives. And not just for socialising either. School teachers now post homework assignments online and the internet is used as much for work as it is for play.
But the age of the internet has brought with it a whole set of new 'cyber rules' and the dos
and don'ts of emails, Facebook-ing and even how to use a mobile phone.
So, just as we teach our kids manners for the real world, there are a number of important things that they should know about communicating in the online world. "In the same way we need etiquette in order to preserve civility in the real world, we need etiquette online," advises digital expert Mark Pesce, from the University of Sydney's Digital Cultures Program.
But don't worry, no-one is expecting you to be an expert in the ins and outs of 'netiquette' when you've only just got your head around the difference between Facebook and Twitter.
"Not all the rules have been written yet," says Dr Milissa Deitz who teaches media and communications at the University of Western Sydney. "However, there are two things that
should always be considered respect for others and context."
We quizzed these Australian experts about what your children need to know when it comes to digital etiquette. Here's what they told us.
1. Don't overshare
The number one thing every parent should drill into their kids is that there should be boundaries about what they post and share online. Remember, anything they post online is there forever – even if they, or you, delete it.
Employers have been known to scout the Facebook pages of teens applying for jobs, so stress to your kids that anything they put online
is there for the world to see.
"When you post something to
the internet it is the equivalent of pasting it to a billboard beside a freeway," says Pesce. "Theoretically, you can do things 'privately' online, but once there's a digital copy of that photograph, it can get copied and re-posted at the speed of light."
Remember the old saying: 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Well, the same applies online. Ask your children to think about what they are writing on blogs, forums or on their friends' Facebook pages before they post. Would they want someone to say that to them?
3. Consider others
It's important not to allow laptops or mobile phones at the dinner table or any other 'family time' situation. Teaching your kids
about the right time to send messages or emails to their friends is just as important as any other rule associated with how they behave online.
"Before sending any sort of electronic or voice message, consider where, when and how
the person will be receiving it," suggests Deitz. And, if your kids are on the receiving end of a message just as you're sitting down for dinner, insist they wait until afterwards to check it.
4.Watch their time
If your kids spend more time online than not, it's definitely time to take stock of exactly how long they're on the computer and what they are doing. Set rules about how long they are allowed to be online each day including homework time. And don't give in. If they have spent all of their allocated 30 minutes surfing Facebook instead of doing their homework, then let them face the consequences at school, instead of caving in and allowing them extra time.
5. Who are they speaking to?
Just as you wouldn't allow your children to speak in slang, it's vital to stress the importance
of proper language when they are communicating online. Acronyms in an email to their school teacher are not okay.
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