Netiquette Lessons – Top 5 Social Media Faux Pas to Teach Your Kid

Almost every mother is familiar with that horrible cringe that follows her child's inappropriate actions.

“Mummy, look how fat that lady is!” little Miss Five points and shouts across the freezer section at the supermarket.

We parents work with our kids from a young age, training them in socially acceptable behaviour so they don't embarrass themselves or us.

Don't talk with your mouth full! Indoor voices inside! No littering!

It's essential to carry such training from every-day life to cyber-life. Just as we train our children to be upstanding citizens, we must train them to be good netizens.

Netiquette is etiquette on the internet, and it is important that our kids receive intentional training and regular reminders on acceptable internet behaviour. A critical age for such training to happen is between the ages of 12 and 14, since 13 is the official age that many young people begin to interact on social media.

Before you allow your child to have accounts with Facebook and Instagram, it is vital that you spend some time training them in acceptable and unacceptable behaviours.

Some kids land in serious trouble for cyberbullying because they don't fully understand the implications of their actions and words. For example, your child may have a frustrating interaction with a school friend that causes him to post something harsh, half meaning it, half joking. Maybe he refers to a friend's large size or skin colour or intellectual difficulties. To your child the post seems like a jibe, a throw-away line. To the other kid, though, it feels like an assault. There it is, for everyone to see–forever. His parents get upset and call the school. The school asks your child about his post…You can see where this is going.

Bottom line: don't expect your children to intuit what's unacceptable behaviour online. Tell them explicitly. Train them in netiquette. Here's a starting place:

Five Social Media Faux Pas Your 13-year-old Must Understand & Avoid

  1. Constant Negativity. Regular whining, grumbling, or venting is not only annoying, it's dangerous territory. A derogatory comment about a teacher or employer, for example, could land them in hot water. Posts are there for posterity–and they are potentially searchable (Google). A stream of negative comments is both boring and irksome. There's a reason Eeyore lives all alone in his “Gloomy Place,” away from everyone else in the Hundred Acre Woods. (He's no fun.)
  2. Disrespectful Behaviour. Don't be disrespectful to anyone, because the internet never forgets. Kids need to know this for later life: if you post things about your boss or your company, you could be fired. Even potential employers will do a basic google search on a person to look at the quality of their posts. Is this person crazy/impulsive/uncouth? Do they make racial slurs? Do they defame their school or teachers? Or do they behave appropriately? Welcome to the 21st Century, where our character is evaluated by the sum of our posts.
  3. Cowardly Attacks. Don't post comments that you wouldn't say to someone's face. Adding a smiley face or a winky face to an insult doesn't change the fact that it's inappropriate, hurtful, or wrong. Spend time helping your child shift perspective. Help them understand how the other person may feel by asking probing questions and making relevant comparisons to events in their lives. Some kids are naturally empathic; others haven't got a clue. All will benefit from parental coaching.
  4. Flaming & Trolling. Flaming is jargon for making inflammatory comments, be they repetitive dribble or antisocial remarks. Trolling is nefarious, abusive internet activity designed to interrupt or derail normal engagement. Trolls, who could be called “professional flamers,” inject highly inappropriate comments just to enrage people. Kids unwittingly resort to troll-like behaviour when they become frustrated. Teach them that rather than flaming, they should log off and do something else.
  5. Profanity. Don't swear. It's disrespectful and unnecessary. An interesting poll done in America found that teens themselves get annoyed by other users who swear a lot. Profanity is a hallmark of flaming (see above), and it is highly unoriginal.


  1. Beena Saju

    Thanks,Alison, this is helpful. Keeping us parents posted is such an important job . Very valuable !!

  2. Beena Saju

    Thanks,Alison, this is helpful. Keeping us parents posted is such an important job . Very valuable !!

  3. annette gearside

    Thankyou for this wonderful article Alison will be adding a link on my FB later today …

  4. annette gearside

    Thankyou for this wonderful article Alison will be adding a link on my FB later today …

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