Tips for Teaching Teens Online Manners

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The Internet is today's version of Ye Olde-Fashioned real-world Main Street.

As a parent, I want my children to behave in ways online that are polite.

But like many clueless teenagers, my son on the Internet is like a bull in a china shop. He texts in ALL CAPS, the cyber version of shouting. He makes up silly online names like “Sky Ninja Mr. Awesome Melon Ball.” He goofs, he pranks. Most of it is lighthearted fun. Teenage ebullience. 

But sometimes he writes things on friends' Facebooks that he later regrets. He says, "Mom, I think I have been a troll." 

I didn't have to look troll up (Score!), having been flamed a few times myself. 

We all do things online that we'd never do in the real world. We forget that the Internet is a virtual public space, and that on the receiving end of our messages and opinions, there is a person. 

"There is another human person on the receiving end of that joke,” I told my son. “A person with feelings. Just like you.”

"You are only separated by your perception of anonymity," I said. He asked me what anonymity means. "Something we don't have online," I said. "So wake up. AND DON'T BE A TROLL."

As a family, we're learning to mind our online manners ('netiquette), and you can do the same.

Start here:

Together we can make the modern Main Street a place of civility, creativity, inclusivity, learning, and positive exchange.