Whether we are crossing a street or spelling a word, it seems there are rules for everything. “Look both ways before you cross” or “I before E except after C” are rules that we understand to be useful because they protect us and help us to succeed in our daily lives.
Not surprisingly, there are also rules for using the Internet. Like the other rules in our lives, they are meant to protect us from harm and to help us to have enjoyable experiences online. Whether you surf the Net at school, at the library, or at home, it is important that you always obey these rules:
Avoid sites that request personal information. If you need to register at a site to access certain services, use only your first name or use a code name. You should not give out your real last name, address, phone number, password, or school name. If you are interested in using a site that requires this information, ask a parent before you proceed.
Just because you have written to someone in a chat room or over email does not mean that you know this person. Treat everyone that you encounter online as a stranger, using the same rules for dealing with strangers online as you would for strangers you see on the street.
Don’t agree to meet in person someone you have met online unless you first get permission from your parents. If your parents allow you to meet this person, you should take your parents with you and meet in a public place.
Don’t send people pictures of yourself unless you have permission from your parents.
It’s a good idea to have ground rules for using the computer. Many parents specify the time of day that the computer can be used, how much time we can be logged in, which sites we can surf, and what chat rooms we can visit. Even if your parents don’t have these rules, it is best to check with a parent before you download any programs, register at any sites, or enter any contests.
In general, it is a good rule to treat others the way you would like to be treated, and this rule applies to life online as well.
Surfing the Net is supposed to be an educational, enjoyable experience, but as in real life, sometimes things don’t always work as they should. We may find ourselves on a site that we didn’t mean to be on, or in a chat room where people are saying things that make us uncomfortable. Nasty language, rude comments, mean or spiteful statements, or requests for personal information can all make us uneasy. If you are online and you see or read something that makes you uncomfortable, don’t respond to it. Log off right away and let your parents or teacher know.
Also, though there are loads of sites on the Internet designed specifically for children, and loads more that are appropriate for children, there are others that are meant only for adults. If you find yourself on one of these sites, leave immediately.