The Internet is now considered one of the essentials for subsistence. So, all netizens, including your teen, need to learn netiquette to make use of the Internet in an effective and safe way.
By Hannah S Mathew
Internet communities span ages, timelines, geographical boundaries and languages. Communicating across such diverse barriers is only possible by following a common protocol, that is, netiquette. It is the etiquette that Internet users, or netizens, follow while interacting in cyberspace to communicate effectively.
As your teen takes his first stride towards becoming a netizen, he needs your guidance to understand and learn the finer points of netiquette. Here are a few points to bear in mind to help you teach your teen the nuances of communicating with the online community.
1. Professional language is cool: When your teen uses professional language online, it shows that she is familiar with the rules of communication. Using professional fonts in emails, responding promptly to messages, communicating without rambling, not getting overly passionate in discussions, and organising communication are all characteristics of a mature Internet user.
2. A post can make or break you: Years ago, a communications student in Mumbai clicked the ‘send all’ tab at the end of a heated exchange of emails with one of her professors. Needless to say, the remainder of her stay at the college wasn’t a pleasant one. And even now, she cannot apply for a job in certain leading organisations because the adverse publicity surrounding the incident is still ‘visible’ on the Internet.
Teach your teen to be extra cautious about the information he posts or emails. It is a good idea to have separate email addresses for personal and private communication. To be on the safe side, key in the address after drafting the email and double check it before hitting the ‘send’ button.
3. Keep it simple: If your teen is a very verbose person, his communication style can appear boring, and perhaps even irritating, to some. So, guide him on how to write in a simple and clear manner using short and crisp sentences. Also, when he writes, he shouldn’t leave things unsaid. It will only prompt the reader to draw his own conclusions and lead to confusion.
4. Uppercase = yelling: Capital letters should not be used while communicating either through chat or emails. Capitalising a word or a sentence is considered the equivalent of yelling and is frowned upon by readers. Ask your teen to be creative without resorting to ‘CAPITALS’. For example, she can underline the words she wants to emphasise.
5. Know your audience well to connect with them: It is common for those of the older generation to raise questions about the lingo or emoticons used by youngsters during an interaction on cyberspace. Similarly, those unfamiliar with technology can feel at sea while reading the interactions between techno-savvy counterparts. So, it is important for your ward to know who he is communicating with and how to communicate effectively with them.
6. Your signature is ‘you’ on paper: A signature in emails should not exceed four lines. It must not carry extraneous or erroneous information. Instead, it must only have information for communication and the title of the sender. Unnecessary graphics, links to blogs and other accounts, quotes, etc., are uncalled for in a signature.
7. Good manners make a good impression: ‘Please’ and ‘sorry’ should be used whenever required. Your teen may be a flamboyant go-getter in school, but she needs to adhere to netiquette when it comes to expressing herself online. Impress upon her to not use the Internet for gossip, and to be civil and polite in her choice of words.
8. Acronyms are always casual: Apps like Twitter and WhatsApp are used extensively by teens because of the ease and speed of communication. While communicating on these platforms, it is best to avoid using acronyms, other than ‘PFA’ and ‘etc’. However, it is okay to use them when communicating with close friends or and family members.
9. ‘User-friendly’ does not mean secure and foolproof: Online communities like Facebook, Google+ and Instagram act as platforms for teens to connect with their peers irrespective of their geographical location, school, interests, etc. But the use of passwords and privacy settings do not guarantee security of data on these or other social media sites. There have been numerous instances where information and pictures shared on social media have been misused. Educate your teen on what he can post online and what he shouldn’t. Inform him of the dangers of texting sensitive or explicit content through apps like Snapchat. What is uploaded into cyberspace does not vanish, but remains there and can be used against him later.
10. Good grammar is like personal hygiene: Like personal hygiene, good grammar is all about small details that make a huge difference! Your teen must be careful about spelling, punctuation, word order, tense and grammatical accuracy. A text full of grammatical errors shows poor grasp of language and hinders communication. There are tools available online to check your teen’s texts before she emails/posts them.
Now that you know how important netiquette is and how to teach it to your teen, go ahead and help him build a positive reputation for himself by following these simple techniques. Above all, make your child aware of the dangers of posting personal information in cyberspace, or forwarding chain emails or messages.
Hannah S. Mathew is an Assistant Professor of English, a Freelance Writer, Soft Skills Trainer, Learning Content Developer, Mentor, Diagnostic Counsellor and devoted mom to a teenager.
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