What is netiquette?
Netiquette is a made-up word from the words net and etiquette. Netiquette thus describes the rules of conduct for respectful and appropriate communication on the internet.
Netiquette is often referred to as etiquette for the internet. These are not legally binding rules, but recommended rules of etiquette. Netiquette is mostly used for dealing with unknown people on the internet. The rules of netiquette very depending on the platform and its participants . Generally, it is up to the operator of a website or communication app to specify the type and scope of netiquette. It is also their responsibility to monitor compliance with these basic rules and to penalize violations of them.
Netiquette: General rules of conduct
When communicating on the internet, you should always remember that you are communicating with people and not simply with computers or smartphones. As in the real world, rules of etiquette are necessary on the internet. Netiquette is therefore important to avoid adverse consequences.
Below you will find 20 general recommendations for conduct on the internet that you should follow when communicating online.
1. Stick to the rules of conduct online that you follow in real life
When communicating online, remember the rules of etiquette that you follow in your everyday life. Refrain from insulting, provoking, threatening or insulting others. Respect the opinions of your chat counterparts and express constructive criticism. Remember that you can be prosecuted for insulting people online.
2. Netiquette: Think of the person
Think of the person behind the computer when you compose your messages. You are not communicating with a machine, but with real people. Also, consider what and how you write. Because the internet doesn't forget anything! A screenshot or a copy of your messages is quickly made and still exists even if you delete your messages afterward.
3. Present your best side online
Communication on the internet comes with a certain anonymity that does not exist in real life when you are talking to someone face to face. Often this anonymity leads to a lower inhibition threshold for many users and they behave rudely online if, for example, you disagree with them.
Make sure that you show your best side online. Remain friendly and respectful, even if you disagree. Good netiquette is characterized by respect, politeness and professionalism.
A tip: You should generally refrain from writing messages or individual words entirely in capital letters – even if you want to give these sections more expression. After all, capital letters on the internet mean shouting and are generally considered impolite.
4. Read first, then ask
Do you have a question about something? Then take the time to carefully read the answers in the previous discussion posts first. There is a good chance that someone has already answered your question. If you write an answer similar to someone else's, it shows the other chat participants that you have paid little attention to the conversation so far.
Remember that conversations online can happen very quickly. It is therefore important to gather all the information before responding or asking questions.
5. Netiquette: Pay attention to grammar and punctuation
Take time to read through your answers again. Check them for grammar, punctuation and correct spelling. It can be very frustrating for the other person if they have to decipher poorly written sentences in order grasp the meaning behind them. In addition, faulty grammar distracts from the goal of your message.
Grammar, spelling and punctuation become especially important when composing emails or other correspondence that you submit to colleagues or superiors. If you have a weakness in grammar and spelling, don't be discouraged. Use spelling aids before you send messages.
Another tip: When composing emails, always remember to use the appropriate salutation and parting formula as well. These are also part of netiquette.
6. Respect the privacy of others
This rule should be followed not only in everyday use of online communication, but also at work. Do not simply forward information that has been sent to you without first obtaining permission from the original sender. When sending private emails to multiple recipients, use BCC (blind carbon copy) instead of CC (carbon copy). Many people do not like their names and email addresses being passed on to people they do not know themselves.
This rule on the internet also applies to uploading and sharing photos or videos that show other people. Before circulating such private files, be sure to check with the people concerned before doing so.
Last but not least: Respect the privacy of others and do not sign up for newsletters, forums or the like with someone else's name or email address.
7. Respect the time and bandwidth of others
We live in a much faster world than our parents or grandparents are used to. Information can be sent to different people around the world in a matter of seconds – and without much effort. Nevertheless, the bandwidth, that is to say the information capacity of wires and channels, is limited. It is similar with humans. Think of this limited receptivity of information when you send messages to your friends, colleagues or superiors.
Do you get to the point quickly enough in your emails? Are your arguments formulated correctly and clearly recognizable? No one wants to waste time unnecessarily on an email whose core message is only at the end of the email. That consumes time and effort, and is simply annoying. Also, consider who really needs to be on the list of recipients. After all, respect for other people's time and bandwidth is also part of netiquette.
8. Forgive the mistakes of others
Everyone who goes online to forums and networks was once a beginner. As in any other field, you can make mistakes as a beginner. In online communication, these can be a lack of etiquette or manners.
Often these are spelling mistakes, superfluous questions or answers that are too long. With this in mind, it's important to forgive your counterparts' mistakes. If they are only minor mistakes, it is best not to react to them at all. In the event of a major error, for example a wrong quote, messages written only in capital letters or missing grammar and punctuation, then it is best to point it out to the person in a private message.
A tip: Sarcasm in written form is not always recognizable to everyone on the internet. It is therefore better to remain objective. If you still want to express sarcasm among friends or close colleagues, use emojis such as smileys or GIFs. Carefully chosen, emojis can reinforce your message.
9. Netiquette: Don't abuse your power
On the internet, as in real life, some people have more power than others. Moderators in a forum, experts in companies or system administrators. If you have more power than others, you do not have the right to exploit this power.
Don't spy on colleagues or chat participants just because you have the technical means to do so. For example, system administrators should never read private emails or find out about the salary structure in the company.
10. Help keep flame wars under control
Flame wars are messages that contain aggressive personal criticism or attacks on a person. In group chats, heated discussions often degenerate into so-called flame wars. If you get into such a discussion, you should stay out of it. Always remember that you should treat others as you would like to be treated. Profanity is not part of netiquette.
Also remember that insults and threats on the internet can have legal consequences for you. For this reason, do not be tempted to make such comments, even in heated discussions. Instead, demonstrate exemplary conduct on the internet.
11. Know where you are in cyberspace
Netiquette is interpreted differently in different places on the internet. For example, it is perfectly normal to spread gossip in a TV discussion group. However, if you do this in a serious discussion group, you will quickly make yourself unpopular. It is therefore important that you know where you are on the internet.
This also means that if you are in a new area that is unfamiliar to you, you need to look around and learn the ropes. Get an idea of how other people in this area of cyberspace communicate with each other and adapt to them.
12. Hate speech and netiquette
So-called hate speech on the internet is an increasing problem, especially in social media. It is often found in offensive comments under photos or posts. However, time and again there are coordinated actions by specific actors who join forces for the sole purpose of spreading hate comments. Not infrequently, social or religious fringe groups, foreigners or black people become victims of such actions.
What can you do against hate speech? If you come across such statements on the internet, you should report them to the provider of the website. Often you will find the option to report a post directly underneath it on social media. The providers are legally obliged to delete content which is evidently illegal within 24 hours.
In addition, you can actively approach the spreaders of hate speech and try to invalidate their statements and subsequently educate theperpetrators. It is advisable to ask for the alleged "facts" and take a clear position against hate. Steer the discussion in a more positive direction. However, under no circumstances should you react with hate or insults. You could also be held accountable for this.
Netiquette: Safety rules for children
The internet is an enrichment for everyone – in everyday life, at school and at work. However, it brings with it some risks and downsides, such as the dark net. Talk to your child and explain the possible risks of the internet. Respect your child's privacy and explain the following rules for children on the internet:
13. Children on the internet: Do not give out personal information
In these times of social media, identity theft and social engineering, keeping personal information secret is essential! Under no circumstances should your child share passwords or personal information such as their name, address or telephone number online. The name of the school or clubs should also be kept secret.
14. Use a neutral nickname
Make sure that your child uses a neutral nickname in chat rooms. This should under no circumstances reveal your child's identity. In addition, a neutral nickname ensures that other people do not feel insulted or ridiculed.
15. Netiquette and bots/troll posts
So-called bots are computer programs that usually automatically follow up on a task without requiring any interaction with humans. In social media channels, bots often post comments or even their own posts.
They often spam in forums or in the comments under posts. This is annoying and time-consuming, as these responses have to be identified and removed. Bots are therefore not part of netiquette and should be avoided if at all possible.
16. Rules for children on the internet: Do not trust chat participants
Your child should always approach strangers with a healthy skepticism. You never know who is really hiding behind the funny profile name and picture. For example, your child should never meet a stranger just because they got along well in a chat conversation. It could be an adult with bad intentions.
Similarly, you should explain to your child that they should not add strangers as friends on social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Your child should also not simply open emails and other messages and download attachments. In doing so, your child could accidentally download a Trojan or other malware.
17. Fairness first: Do not exclude anyone
If your child is communicating in a private group, they should refrain from making insider jokes that not everyone in the group will understand. It is better to send a private message to this person. Other chat participants should not feel excluded. Netiquette includes values such as tolerance, respect and helpfulness. This also means that only the language used by everyone should be used.
In a school group chat, your child should always make sure that all chat members are on the same level, for example during a review or presentation. When your child is explaining a topic that may not be clear to everyone, it is a good idea to answer questions about the topic.
18. Netiquette for children: Keep it short and clear
Posts, answers and even questions should be kept as short and clear as possible. No one wants to read an unnecessary amount of text that does not contribute to answering the issue.
Cumbersome language and repetitions only clog up chats and forums; in addition, spelling mistakes can make it more difficult to read and understand what is being said. Forwarding chain letters also has no place in respectful online communication.
19. Netiquette and online learning (tips for pupils)
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, most teaching in schools was done online. So-called homeschooling – teaching from home – was a new challenge that pupils, teachers and parents had to overcome together. Here are some tips for teaching from home:
- Children should support one another, for example by responding to classmates' questions on a chat thread.
- Instruct your children not to digitally record or take screenshots of lessons without first getting the teacher's permission.
- A polite and respectful tone is an absolute must in homeschooling.
- Passwords and credentials given by the school must not be passed on by children to third parties under any circumstances.
- Children should be ready a few minutes before class starts in order to start on time. Teaching materials should be ready and the camera for the video conference should always be switched on. You should also make sure that your child dresses as they would appear at school.
- Pupils should speak up if they have any questions or comments. Afterwards, they should mute their microphone again so as not to disturb the lesson with any background noise.
20. Trust your child
Last but not least, the most important rule for children's use of the internet: Trust your child. After all, you cannot permanently look over their shoulder, whether your child is learning via computer, smartphone or tablet. Your child learns best through their own experiences. Trust in your offspring's abilities, and refrain from constantly monitoring their internet activities. It is usually enough to know that your child can ask you for help if the worst happens.
If you follow the above rules of netiquette, you will have no problems with online communication in everyday life, in class or at work. In addition, your respectful and friendly behavior will be noticed positively by your colleagues and superiors.
Especially for children, it is important to learn the correct rules of etiquette on the internet at an early age. Social interaction and the correct rules of etiquette and behavior on the internet are just as important as in real life.
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