With kids getting access to social media earlier and earlier, it’s important that they understand and practice proper online etiquette. There’s no better time to teach students internet comment etiquette than before they get access to social media. It’s never too early to start promoting positive online behaviors. Practicing positive social media commenting not only helps students improve their digital footprints for colleges, but it also discourages cyberbullying.
So, we asked 14 experts to share their best tips for encouraging students to develop positive social media commenting habits.
1. Teach and show your kids empathy
Balint Horvath, PhD, Founder, Projectfather
One recommendation I have is to encourage children to practice empathy. Due to the impersonal nature of online communication, children often forget they are human beings with feelings on the other end of the communication channel. Teaching children to show empathy can help them develop a positive online commenting etiquette. By putting themselves into the shoes of others, they learn to automatically self-correct themselves.
Parents should sit down with their children to discuss weekly what interactions they had online; but this should be done in a casual way, just like when a parent asks, how it was at school at the end of a day.
Naturally many children emulate the empathetic behavior of people who are closest to them – their parents. Therefore parents should show understanding and support towards friends, family, and strangers, in case they want their kids to behave well both online and offline.
2. Don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say in person
Alice Anderson, Founder and Creator, Mommy to Mom
I have a 12-year-old daughter. She isn’t on social media but she is in 7th grade and is remote learning right now. She spends most of her time on the computer for school where there is a lot of online commenting happening.
I have stressed the importance of being kind and treating others with respect since she was little. Now that she’s older, that conversation includes online behavior. I encourage her not to say anything she wouldn’t say to someone in person.
We talk about the fact that once you’ve put something out there on the internet, you can’t take it back. You can delete it but how do you know that person didn’t take a screenshot? I’ve explained to her how what you say now can come back to bite you in the future. One example is that a future employer may want to look at your social media history to see what kind of person could potentially represent their company.
3. Ask yourself questions before hitting “post”
Alessandra Kessler, Founder & a Blogger, Healthy Body Healthy Mind
Parents and teachers should teach children to behave properly when using any online platform. It is necessary to tell them about the importance of positive self-image online. Whenever they are commenting on an online platform, tell them that freedom of speech does not mean going beyond boundaries. When you ask them that, whenever a student posts or comments on something, it reflects his mindset and personality; he/she will definitely consider it and refrain himself/herself from posting anything bad.
One of the best techniques is to feed a few questions in a child’s mind because these questions will always emerge whenever he or she comments on anything.
- When you post or comment, would you like your parents or teachers to see or read it?
- Will the comment affect your career or develop a bad image of you?
- Would your comment affect or hurt someone?
4. Work with your children on the first few responses to demonstrate how to comment online
Bryan Truong, GameCows
My advice for parents regarding teaching appropriate internet etiquette is to start young. We all know kids are getting online earlier and earlier these days. But by integrating lessons on proper internet behavior with other early childhood education, you can create lifelong habits that have a better chance of persisting as your kid grows older.
What I’ve done with my own daughter is to monitor and guide her through her first social media posts. I know many parents aren’t comfortable allowing their sons or daughters access to social media platforms at a young age, but you can do this using your own accounts. For example, I allowed my daughter to post about positive things she cares about – namely bugs of all kinds – on my Facebook page. We then went through replies together, which allowed me to discuss proper ways to respond to others in a virtual setting.
5. Respect others’ opinions
Edie Reads, Editor-in-Chief, Corriecooks.com
Say something meaningful or nothing at all. It is not enough to review your child’s online activity and review their social media. You have to teach them the number one online interaction principle that is ‘Say something meaningful or nothing at all.’ Teach them empathy and the need to criticize their comments and reactions to different commentaries before pressing the send button.
Respect others’ opinions. You also have to teach them the need to be respectful of others’ opinions and viewpoints. Teach them to learn to avoid online dramas and the need to walk away from unhealthy arguments. More importantly, make them understand the cardinal ‘Internet never forgets’ rule when interacting with anyone online. Make it absolutely clear that they should NEVER violate a friend (and virtually anyone’s) confidence by sharing sensitive information or any information that may bring them shame, embarrassment, or ridicule online.
6. Always THINK first
Arash Fayz, Executive Director, LA TUTORS 123
All students need to be taught basic safety and courtesy policies of the Internet, whether or not they were born well after its advent. When it comes to commenting online (whether privately or publicly), students can use the THINK acrostic:
T = Is it true?
H = Is it helpful?
I = Is it inspiring?
N = Is it necessary?
K = Is it kind?
Younger students find this simple questionnaire useful when they first begin interacting online, and older students can apply this to long-term goal planning (i.e. do I want my dream school/dream job finding this comment?) Considering both short-term and long-term consequences of online commenting are good practices for students to slow down and think before posting.
7. When interacting online, keep it respectful and courteous
Aaron Simmons, Founder, TestPrepGenie.com
It is always about using the right words that promote courtesy and respect whatever their opinions are. Always educate the child on how to relay their thoughts in a manner that shows respect.
Also, it is very crucial to teach them the right concept of respect when it comes to freedom of speech. It is true that everyone has his/her own freedom when it comes to this point but when they address any issue, teach the value of responding with rational, fact-based comments.
Bottom line: Comments delivered in a respectful, rational, and fact-based manner is the best way to show your etiquette online.
8. Focus on commentary and avoid negatives like ‘but’ and ‘however’
Bara Sapir, Test Prep New York
Commentary provides rich dialogue between online participants. The two techniques below to develop positive online commenting habits will encourage deeper inquiry and curiosity and help to share different perspectives and the potential flourishing that results.
1) Present commentary as separate from the person who has presented it. This depersonalizes what the person has said, and allows it to ‘present’ independently.
2) Provide a positive commentary sandwich. Start with a positive observation or comment. Then present commentary. Finish with another positive observation. This creates a positive buffer around material that provides different perspectives.
Replace the use of ‘but’ or “however’ in commentary and instead, use the word, ‘and’. “But” and ‘however’ negate the material that is presented before it. ‘And’ is additive and builds on instead of negates what was said prior. It’s a softer and more affirming way to provide a different perspective.
9. Have an outside perspective BEFORE posting online
Vickie Pierre, USInsuranceAgents.com
As adults, we understand that negative comments can evolve into crisis situations and the need for reputation management. If anyone needs protection from that kind of fallout, it’s students. This is where parents must step in.
As students venture into engaging and interacting with others online, parents need to be open and upfront with them. They must not only share the ramifications negative comments can bring, but they must also learn to be a good sounding board for their children.
Encourage students to read their comments to someone else before posting — even if it isn’t mom and dad. Have them ask, is this hurtful? Divisive? Mean? Simply giving students the space to think about and reflect on their words can make all of the difference between a crisis situation or positive communication.
10. Say something meaningful or don’t say anything at all on social media
Teana McDonald, 3E Connections
As a parent, social media marketer, and speaker, I teach my kids (and the kids I speak to) about the impact of what you say in an online forum and how it could possibly follow you for the rest of your life. The general rule is if you can’t say it to a parent, a teacher, or your own grandmother, then you shouldn’t be saying it online. Be respectful, and if you have the urge to respond, say something meaningful or don’t say anything at all.
Everything that you put online lives there and can potentially haunt you in your future. Think about the job you want or the college you want to attend. What does your online behavior say about you? What does it say about your parents? Then, I show examples of bad reputations and good reputations of kids online.
11. Regularly review your child’s social media accounts
Dr. Michael Bishop, Summerland Camps
At Summerland Camps, the first summer camp for technology overuse habits, we recommend parents set up regular intervals with their children to review all social media accounts. Typically we recommend setting aside about 30 minutes every weekend to review posts and comments.
When you see a questionable post your child made, discuss with your child where the comment is coming from. Ask your child, “What need did this post or comment fulfill?”
Question your child if you suspect they were trying to embarrass another person online. If the child posted an inappropriate photo or comment, ask, “What message are you trying to communicate? How can we rephrase this to be more appropriate?”
Ultimately, parents need to help the child re-craft any inappropriate posts or comments to send a better public message. By questioning a child’s online activities, parents can help children see how they may truly appear to others online.
12. Teach students to be respectful of others and their opinions
Phyllis Miller, HOW TO SUCCEED books for teens and young adults
The first step I teach in each of my three ‘How to Succeed’ books for teens and young adults — is to convince students to never post anything online (even if they think the site has very strong security controls) that could come back to haunt them in their college and job applications. This includes photos of them holding drinks or with inappropriate hand gestures.
The second is to teach students to be respectful of others and the opinions of others. Even when students post opposing viewpoints online, these need to be stated in rational language and not attacking the other person.
13. Challenge students to question their intentions on social media
Vasiliki Baskos, Learn Greek Online
Teach students that when commenting online, they are talking in public and the whole world is listening. Their comment is published and the whole world will be able to read it in the years to come.
Challenge students to question their intentions on social media. Ask them if a friend posts a photo of animal cruelty, would they click “Like” on it? If so, do they realize the whole world can see that?
If students make a comment that they dislike a certain company or professional field. Several years later, when they are seeking for a job and undergoing interviews, their potential employers may see that comment.
14. Encourage students to practice “netiquette”
Dr. John DeGarmo, The Foster Care Institute
When many of our children go online today, the lesson of etiquette is often forgotten. For many children, lessons of etiquette were never taught to begin with. Netiquette is simply etiquette for the internet; having good manners while being online or using computer technology. A dictionary definition of the word might look like this:
*Netiquette /net-i-ket/, *Noun: *1. The social code of network communication. 2. The social and moral code of the internet based on the human condition and the Golden Rule of Netiquette. 3. A philosophy of effective internet communication that utilizes common conventions and norms as a guide for rules and standards.*