Netiquette: Appropriate etiquette also applies to online interactions.

Netiquette: Teaching your kids about digital manners

Online chatting, commenting, liking, and sharing posts – the internet offers many different platforms to share opinions or to interact with friends and acquaintances. We can use social networks, messengers, and chat rooms to discuss or share the most recent information and articles. As in every-day life, there are certain online rules and digital manners that apply and should be observed to ensure respectful interactions. We explain to you what to watch out for when you interact with other people and what digital etiquette means. Additionally, we provide tips on how you can discuss netiquette rules with your child and what you need to remember about the topic of “smartphones at school”.

Respectful behaviour online: Rules for good netiquette

The anonymity of the internet is tempting for some users to express their opinion without reflection of whether they may hurt someone. Therefore, you may see comments or insults in some chat rooms or commentary sections that do not adhere to chat rules and certainly not to any netiquette standards. However, the same behavioural rules commonly accepted for everyday interactions also apply to online situations.

The term netiquette combines the terms “net” – short for internet – and “etiquette”. Netiquette therefore defines rules for proper behaviour on the internet and regulates friendly and respectful interactions in chats, forums, commentary sections and many other areas. Administrators and moderators need to make sure that everyone adheres to appropriate digital etiquette standards on their respective platform. Nevertheless, not every user automatically observes set rules – ignoring them may, for example, lead to the exclusion of this person from the respective platform.

For you and your child to be able to handle such comments and statements, it is important to always talk about your online experiences. Share positive as well as negative experiences with one another and talk about your thoughts and feelings in certain situations. What was wrong with the behaviour of a user? What wording would have been more appropriate or more polite? This is how you build trust, increase your kid’s self-confidence and encourage your child to always be friendly and polite when using the internet. Find out how you can explore the internet together safely in this article.

Have your child show you different websites and social networks and explore them from his or her perspective. This way you may even learn about new functions you did not know before and see which parts your child has understood and whether there are any questions. In the world of social media, messengers, and chats, you should always take the first steps together. Explain to your child that behind every username is a real person. This is easily forgotten when there are funny names and profile pictures. Talk about the fact that the same rules apply to online communication as they do in real life discussions and why one should observe this netiquette.


Special chat rooms for kids offer a safer environment for chatting. These moderated (“supervised”) chat rooms focus heavily on the security and privacy of their young users. 

Chat rules for peaceful online exchange

Chat rooms offer the opportunity to talk online, discuss and send pictures. Here, personal conversations are shifted into the digital world. At first, this way of communicating will be new for your kid. Therefore, you should join him or her during the first few visits in a safe chat room for kids and explain the functions and possibilities.

For best outcomes, you will agree on a few rules which you can write down beforehand. Important chat rules for respectful behaviour online include:

  • Consider carefully what you want to write before posting.

  • Read your draft once more before sending.

  • Choose positive words, critique constructively and write in a friendly way.

  • Do not spread rumours.

  • Do not click on links sent to you.

  • Do not forward pictures without asking first.

  • If someone gets insulted, talk to your parents about it.

Show interest in what your child does online and find out what experiences he or she has gained. You will enjoy looking at shared pictures and laugh about jokes forwarded. However, respect your child’s need to have sufficient freedom after the initial introductory phase. This way, he or she will benefit from independent experiences and advance in media literacy. Trust your child and offer help when required.

Online risks: Accompany your child during his or her first steps on the internet.

A child-friendly alternative to WhatsApp is, for example, Signal Messenger. It offers a range of functions such as chatting, voice calls, voice messages and sending of pictures and videos, yet this app applies more stringent data protection rules. The app saves almost no meta-data and is encrypted end-to-end. Meta data contains additional information, for example contact data. These could potentially be used for personalized advertising. Another advantage is that messages can be deleted by your child or automatically self-delete after a certain period of time which can be pre-set.


To allow child-friendly alternatives to messenger apps and chat rooms to establish themselves, you should tell other parents about them. This way, your kids and their friends can quickly switch to child-friendly alternatives.

Social networks: Recognize and handle online risks

As opposed to chat rooms, social networks provide more space to interact. Here, you require a certain overview and sufficient knowledge about the platform in order to show and explain it to your child. Ensure that security and privacy settings of your accounts are set to only allow friends and selected persons to view your posts. Explain to your child why these settings are important. This will sensitize your child to potential online risks so that he or she would not want to change the account settings alone.

Speak openly about how social networks differ from chat rooms and how you can extend the netiquette rules you agreed on before:

Consider carefully and in advance which pictures you would like to post. Might they be embarrassing later?

  • Never post addresses, phone numbers or locations.

  • Report insulting or threatening posts.

  • Be patient, you may have to wait for an answer longer than you are used to.

  • Only add persons to your friend list that you know.

  • Do not start conversations with strangers.

Even if your child has had negative experiences, you should remain calm and talk about the situation. Such occurrences strengthen your child’s media literacy if they are followed up thoroughly. Normally, a situation de-escalates when parents and children speak with one another and find a solution together. Should this not be the case, then you can call a helpline or ask for help at a counselling centre.

Group activities in school can also make your child more confident in the digital world. A “media support group” could be a good place for your child to go to reflect online experiences with peers. Issues such as cyber-bullying may also be addressed in such a group and potential solutions can be discussed. A teacher in charge may also be approachable and happy to facilitate the initiation of such a group.

Netiquette offline: Rules for using smartphones in public

Netiquette does not only entail respectful behaviour online, but also appropriate media consumption. Find out how to reduce media consumption in the family by reading our article “Screen time recommendations”. Moreover, proper media use in public and at school is covered by the topic of netiquette.

Therefore, we have assembled a few basic rules for the proper use of smartphones and tablets in public:

  • Talking in person is almost always more important than phone calls.

  • At a restaurant or café, mobile phones should be put away.

  • In public, the sound should always be deactivated.

  • Loud phone conversations are not appropriate on train rides or on the bus.


Be an example for your child and show awareness of how to use smartphones appropriately and purposefully. This way, it is easier for your child to learn what to watch out for when using a smartphone and which rules apply.

Netiquette: At school, smartphones must be put away in the school bag.

Moreover, a responsible use of smartphones at school is fundamentally important so that your child can concentrate on the lessons. Here, you will find a few key rules about using smartphones at school:

  • During lessons, smart phones remain put away in the school bag.

  • During school, the sound remains turned off.

  • If a teacher allows using it for research or other reasons, then a mobile phone may be used during class.

  • During class, you must not take pictures or record videos.

  • During quizzes or class tests, smartphones are absolutely not permitted.

  • During break, smart phones should be used as little as possible. It is better to play with or talk to your classmates.

Talk to your child about these rules and explain why they are not only important for good grades in school. It is considered respectful behaviour in school to pay full attention to your teacher. A smartphone is distracting and interrupts the general focus during class.


Netiquette is an important aspect of our digital, everyday lives which occasionally is forgotten. Talk to your child openly about what rules should be observed online so that he or she may learn to evaluate such situations and become an example for others. Proper use of smartphones in public and at school are also part of this. Find additional information about the topic of “media literacy for children and parents” in our guidelines, which you can download for free.

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Sources and further reading

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