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Netiquette 101: Being Civilized and Safe Online

The No-Brainer Stranger-Danger Stuff

  • Never share your password with anyone. Likewise, do not use anyone else’s password. Change your password if you even think it has been compromised. Words or backwards words are not secure passwords. Mix cases, numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • Don’t unwittingly (or wittingly!) give out so much information about yourself that a stranger (or a “friend”) can put your day together through your words and links. It’s generally not a good idea to accept friend invitations from people you don’t know in real life.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you know someone after having “met” him or her online. You know only what he or she chooses to say about themselves.
  • Even if you have met the person off-line before, as an acquaintance, let a trusted adult know if your online interaction ever seems uncomfortable, or if they are encouraging you to do things that you do not want to do.

21st century life online, or “How do so many people/companies know so much about me?”

  • Take great care in what you reveal about yourself on social network sites like Facebook and in online communication. Use privacy settings wherever possible, but be aware that rules for privacy settings often change. Double-check your privacy settings by looking yourself up without being logged in. Google yourself from time to time, or use a service like pipl.com.
  • Be very careful about what you sign up for and what you respond to online. Keep in mind that if a service you are using is “free,” then your personal information is the product!
  • Nothing is ever really private online. Take control of your digital footprint and build a positive online presence!
  • To be more specific: never put in an email message, on a social network site, or in a chat message, anything you would not put on a postcard. Anything you do online can “travel” to unexpected places. Likewise, treat other people’s communications with respect. Don’t post images, forward messages, or copy messages without knowing it’s truly okay to do so.
  • Mask your identity for privacy’s sake if you wish, but take care in creating a false persona. Don’t hide behind an anonymous sign-in in order to leave inappropriate comments or posts. It’s never okay to impersonate someone else.
  • Don’t respond to spam, even to request removal from a list, unless you are sure of the source. It only verifies that the sender has reached a legitimate e-mail address. Minimize the proliferation of spam (and promote the cause of privacy!) by not sending messages to long lists of e-mail addresses. Use “Bcc” for most of the addresses instead of “To.”  Don’t publish your e-mail address on your web page. Mark bogus “friend” requests as spam.

A bit about physical safety, or yes, computers can hurt you

  • Avoid extended use of a laptop resting directly on your lap. The bottom of the laptop can get very hot and therefore cause temporary or permanent injury. Use a barrier—such as a book or devices made specifically for this purpose—when working on your lap. Also, avoid lap-based computing while connected to the power adapter as this will significantly increase the temperature.
  • Avoid lengthy repetitive tasks (such as typing and using the trackpad). Take frequent breaks and change your physical position (typing while standing, sitting, leaning, etc.) to minimize discomfort.

Communication and getting along

  • Be expressive in your communication, but not obnoxious. Use smileys (emoticons) like 🙂 to indicate tone of voice, but use them sparingly. Same goes for use of exclamation points, all caps, avatars, pulsating backgrounds, and other flourishes.
  • Try to be prompt when messages are sent to you.
  • Avoid sarcasm; inflection and tone can get lost with written messages communicated online. What may seem like sarcasm or a joke can get easily lost in translation.
  • E-mail should have a subject heading which reflects the content of the message.
  • Be careful about what you send and forgiving in what you receive. Don’t flame others and ignore flames when you receive them. If you get something that makes you angry, it can be a good idea to wait a day before replying.
  • When forwarding a message that has been forwarded to you, remove the layers of addresses that frustrate the reader.
  • Be careful when you reply to messages or postings sent to large groups. Sometimes replies are sent back to the entire group. If you have multiple chat windows open, make sure your response is going to the right person!
  • Don’t send large amounts of unsolicited information to people.
  • Use headphones in public spaces. Your friends and (especially) teachers will thank you for it.
  • It’s rude to multitask people. Don’t text when your parents are trying to talk to you.
  • Don’t annoy system administrators. They usually have your best interests at heart.
  • Understand and practice copyright compliance. Having a copy of something doesn’t mean that you have the right to copy or distribute it. Paraphrase words; post less than 30 seconds of a musical selection; do not post others’ images unless you have explicit permission to do so.  More about this in many classes and semesters to come!

Having a Life

  • Take a break from being online every hour. Read a book, eat a snack, go outside, do your homework. Get together with your friends in person.
  • Be a careful custodian of disk space and bandwidth. If downloading a file is going to give you enough time to knit a sweater, forget it.
  • Let technology enhance your life, but don’t let it take over your life. Don’t get sucked into social networking or game playing or web surfing when you should be working on your English paper or having dinner with your family. Keep your priorities straight.
  • Online technologies are often not the best way to communicate sensitive or personal information. Face-to-face communications, handwritten notes or letters, and the phone are as good and often better in many situations.