Do you like to play on the computer? Exploring the Internet can be an exciting way to spend a few extra minutes every now and then. From interesting educational websites to media sites where you can communicate with friends, the Internet is a vast virtual world that is constantly changing.
One of the interesting things about the Internet is that people from all around the world, from all walks of life, can interact in ways that would never be possible in real life. Be sure to let your parents and teachers guide you on your online journeys, though, as it's important to learn how to navigate the Internet safely.
Just like in real life, there are certain rules you should follow in terms of your behavior online. Just because you're at a computer and no one can really know who you are or what you're like, common courtesy dictates that you should behave in certain ways. We call these rules that govern online behavior “netiquette," which stands for “Internet etiquette."
In other words, netiquette means good manners online. Just like there are certain rules you follow when you're in school or at the dinner table, there are other rules that you should follow online to make your interactions in cyberspace as positive as possible.
- Remember the golden rule: treat others as you would wish to be treated. Never forget that those you interact with online are real people with real feelings. This can be easy to forget when you're just staring at a computer screen. Online communication using only words can be impersonal, since you usually can't see facial expressions, gestures or hear a person's tone of voice. So be aware of your words and use them carefully, because in cyberspace, your words can live on much longer than you'd imagine!
- Act in the same way online that you would in real life. If you wouldn't do something in real life, don't do it online either!
- Always be aware of where you are. When you visit a new website, take some time to look around and get a feel for how others behave and participate. This will help you get an idea of whether you want to participate and, if you do, how to do so properly.
- Use your writing skills! Yes, grammar and spelling count online. When it's your words that define your online presence, use them skillfully and carefully! If you need help with spelling and grammar, grab a book or take a course to help you. It's worth it.
- Share your knowledge! The Internet exists to help all users gain knowledge. If you're an expert in an area, don't keep your knowledge to yourself. Share it with others, so that everyone can benefit.
- DON'T SHOUT! Use of ALLCAPS is the Internet equivalent of shouting, so don't use ALLCAPS unless you really intend to be SHOUTING something over the Internet.
- Don't spam others. If you receive a joke via email, feel free to share it with a few friends who you know appreciate those types of emails. Don't, however, forward it to everyone in your address book. Many people don't enjoy receiving emailed jokes or have time to read them.
Those are just a few of the rules of netiquette. The rules change over time, too, as technology advances and new uses are found for the Internet. If you use common sense and treat others the way you want to be treated, you'll do fine!