Cybersafe and Savvy Tip 4: Words are really online stones

When I was writing CyberSafe, which wasn’t all that long ago, most kids’ first exposure to the digital world was email. It still may be for small kids but texting is truly the number 1 way most kids communicate today!

Well, 4 years ago, when my youngest daughter was 11, I discovered this email exchange with a friend:

My daughter to Friend: Will you be in school tomorrow?

Friend back to my daughter: I was there today jerk 🙂

Even though her friend included a smiley face at the end of her reply, the inclusion of the world “jerk” bothered us. In Chapter 7 of CyberSafe, I included this email in a discussion I called “Email and Shooting from the Hip”. Here’s what I wrote:

“I was a bit taken back to see my daughter’s friend call her “jerk”. My daughter claims it was meant as a joke, but was it? At the very least, it was not appropriate. I sat my daughter down and explained to her that it is never OK to call a friend names and especially not OK in an e-mail…Beyond inappropriate emails, the next step is true bullying, always dangerous and destructive. But, do we have to get to bullying to say a behavior is unacceptable? Should there be acceptable manners for use for all online venues as there are for social manners? I certainly think so.

Think about basic real-world etiquette a moment. Here are some scenarios to ponder.

1. Would you ever let your daughter call another child “jerk”, “dummy”, or “idiot” to that child’s face?

2. If your son didn’t like a friend’s new sweater, would it ber Ok for him to yell at his friend, calling him names like “idiot” and saying, “Where does your mom shop?” or “You call that a sweater?”

3. If your teen was upset with a clerk at a store, would it be ok to start yelling at the clerk, telling the clerk he or she was an “idiot”?

…It’s time was used real-world etiquette online and reminded ourselves of the manners we use in life that we want our kids to use….”

So, today, talk to your kids about their digital communications and find out not only what language they use but what language is used in the posts they receive. Name calling is never ok. And, unlike the bruise from a real stone, the bruises from words last a heck of a long time longer, if they fade at all.


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