Online Safety and Ethics

An indigenous male teen looks closely at the screen of his smartphoneYouth are incredibly technologically savvy. They've grown up with social media, the internet, and changing technology as their norm. In fact, today's youth don't know life without social media and the internet. This is integral in how they communicate, connect, learn, entertain themselves and others, as well as socialize.

Following good online practices helps to ensure that we can get the most out of our online experience. Being mindful and respectful of others, their views, opinions – even if they don't agree with them – and their property are all part of practicing good online etiquette

What is online etiquette?

Simply put, online etiquette, or netiequette, is acceptable behaviour when on the internet. Think of it as a set of rules or guidelines. When online, users should be kind, honest, and respect the rights and property of others – essentially, acting and behaving the same offline in daily life as when online. 

Adults have an important role to play in teaching online etiquette. Our behaviour online is something youth see. If want to our children to leave a good digital footprint, to be good digital citizens, and to practice good online etiquette, we should practice what we preach. The internet and social media are where today's employers, universities, and non-profit organizations go to learn more about potential employees, students, and volunteers. Being mindful of what we are posting and sharing is important. Who we are online is how we are often perceived by others. Our digital footprint is our resume. It is important that youth know this and, with the help of adults, learn how to manage their online presence. 

How can I empower and help my child stay safe online?

Being safe online starts with being a good digital citizen. It also means setting rules and limits together so kids and adults know each other's expectations when it comes to navigating social media, the internet, and when using technology. Kids should feel empowered while online. As adults, we can empower youth by providing a safe space where they can come with their concerns, questions, and observations about what they experience online. Teaching online etiquette involves regular conversations with our kids, checking in with them, and using real-life experiences as teaching tools.

Tips for teaching youth about online etiquette

  • Treat others how you want to be treated. The same rule that applies online as it does in real life. Remind youth about the importance of good manners, and remind them to discuss sensitive or potentially upsetting topics with the person directly rather than posting something online. 
  • Be positive and truthful. Self-censoring messages is important. Encourage youth to make sure their posts are not sarcastic, rude, or negative. They should avoid gossip or sharing information that is not true. Youth should understand what cyberbullying is, and not engage in any activity online that is considered harmful to others. 
  • Check and double-check before hitting 'send'. Once they press send the information is out there and cannot be taken back. Teach kids to think about what they are posting, texting, or emailing to others. Encourage them to read what they intend to post numerous times before hitting send. Even if they later delete it, someone may have taken a screenshot and shared it with others. 
  • Respect others and their confidence. Remind youth that if a friend shares something in confidence, that it should remain in confidence and not be shared with others. Teach youth to use critical thinking and to ask themselves how they would feel if something they shared in confidence with someone was shared with others. They should always seek permission before sharing or posting a photo of someone else.
  • Stay away from drama. Talk with youth about online drama and how to avoid it. If an online conversation is becoming negative, encourage them to sign out. That isn't always easy to do, but may possibly prevent things from escalating. Responding with a mean message or nasty text can make things worse. 

Recommended resources on Online Safety and Ethics