October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and National Bullying Prevention Month, giving us plenty of pause and cause to become digitally mindful and make sure we think before we click.
This month is a wake-up call reminding us to dig our heels in deeper and take a stand for our families and for ourselves. It’s time to put the kibosh on blindly entering our social security numbers and credit card information onto any old website that inquires, and time to instill some serious consequences for those children who blatantly harm others by spewing hatred online. We have to be hyper-conscious about our internet safety and security, be fiercely protective of our privacy and warn our children about the dangers of cyber-bullying and the cautionary tales of online plagiarism so that we may all become responsible digital citizens from this point going forward.
Simply put, we need to instill a little “netiquette” into our lives. Netiquette, a combination of internet and etiquette, is a genius term that was coined to provide guidelines for acceptable behavior on the Internet. It is meant to keep all electronic activity organized and civilized. It incorporates the more formal common courtesies online, as well as the less formal codes of cyberspace.
Whether you are proficient online or a neophyte in the digital world, everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, and should act accordingly. Here are five crucial reminders to help keep you on track.
1. Practice the Online Golden Rule. Treat others online with the same regard, or better, than you would treat them offline. Go the extra mile to be respectful and courteous. Remember that while you may be tapping away at a keyboard, the other person cannot hear the tone of your voice or read the visual cues from your face and body to better understand your meaning. All of this is lost in online communication and can come across as mean or rude, even if you did not intend them this way. Avoid typing your communications in all caps. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING! If you want to emphasize a word, use asterisks, italics or emoticons to evoke your emotion.
2. Preserve Your Privacy. We have been reprimanded repeatedly to keep personal information to ourselves. Especially in our age of over-sharing, we must set limits and boundaries and be smarter about what we will reveal both personally and professionally, as well as financially. It is not worth the gamble. Do not willingly divulge details unless it is extremely safe to do so. Keep things closer to the vest. A little mystery in these times could do us all a bit of good.
3. No More Bull! There are new ways to tease and taunt online that result in ruining reputations and exposing people without their knowledge or consent. This behavior is malicious and deliberate and has been labeled Cyber-bullying. Never ever type or post anything, including messages, videos or photos that would be considered slanderous or negative content about another person. It is reckless and harmful and only exposes the abuser as a foolish individual. Learn from the phrase, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all" and live it!
4. Don’t Play with Plagiarism. With the World Wide Web at our fingertips, it is way too easy to adopt another person’s words as our own. Avoid any implication of plagiarism by making sure to cite and credit the author of your sources. If you do not, be prepared to face the unpleasant consequences and embarrassment.
5. Update Your Status Sparingly. Online social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are meant to be used to enhance and complement your existing offline life. You should not use them to create an imaginary life where you are more successful, interesting or attractive than you are in person. Apply extreme discretion when disclosing any type of personal information, you never know what might come back to haunt you in the future.
Do you have any personal stories you'd like to share about your experiences online? Any lapse in judgment with regard to your digital responsibility? Share with us, we'd love to hear from you!