Online friendships are so important to young people that many of them would endure pain rather than lose access to them. On average, young people have 56 online friends. As one young man commented:
“I’d rather lose a leg than access to Facebook.”
The strength of online relationships mirrors the best and at times, the worst, of face-to-face relationships. The only problem is that when things go badly online, they go really badly. And unlike the real world, there is no forgetting about it. As we know, things published online are difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
Almost two thirds of children have had a negative experience online and 20 percent feel badly about something they have done online. In fast-paced heated interactions in chat rooms, people who are usually friendly and positive can post nasty and hurtful comments with devastating consequences.
We need to develop ‘netiquette’—standards of behaviour for people online. Netiquette is about relationships and how people behave, rather than about particular websites or pieces of technology.
The following guidelines have been compiled from suggestions made by thousands of young people and may be useful to consider or use as a discussion point.
The ‘nana rule’
Online actions have real life consequences. If you wouldn’t do it in real life, don’t do it online. Use the ‘nana rule’—if you wouldn’t want your nana to know about it, don’t put it on the web!
Your future employers, friends and partners can and probably will, trace your cyber-trail.