DEC 08, 2021

Netiquette for Kids

Learn how to teach your child respect, consideration, and honesty in digital spaces

By Allyson Thayne
Gabb Family Resources

What is Netiquette?

Netiquette is a combination of the words internet and etiquette. Our social circle grows when we are online. Kids need opportunities to understand how to treat others with respect even when our interaction is virtual. It’s easy to forget that people behind the screen are real too. When young people realize that anyone they interact with online is someone’s family—someone’s child, just like they are, they will have a desire to show kindness.


While the online environment affects etiquette, its core traits—respect, consideration, and honesty—are universal (Post, 2017). In other words, when you teach the art of netiquette to your children, they will likely already have an instinct for it based on real-life experiences. Teaching your kids appropriate behavior around any device will prepare them to protect and defend themselves and others.

Online Safety for Kids

Although the internet offers endless knowledge and expands our cultural awareness, it can also be used to exploit children. Young people face threats they may never have to deal with in the real world, like identity theft, harassment, and cyberbullying. Kids are particularly vulnerable to abuse because they are generally underprepared to withstand it (Webroot, n.d.). Even adults struggle to filter what they share online, resulting in strained relationships (Soler-Costa et al., 2021). Without awareness and guidelines, children can’t be expected to engage safely and appropriately. 

By teaching your kids how to behave online, you’re keeping them in check and taking power away from abusers. Below you’ll find some suggestions for having open conversations with your children about online etiquette and digital citizenship.

Phone Etiquette

Because phones are mobile, we use them throughout the day. That means we’ve got to think about how our smartphone use affects those around us. Teach kids to know when they can use their phones in public. Help them learn to be present and prioritize the people around them by putting their phones aside. To teach children safe and effective communication, start talking about phone etiquette and modeling best practices.

Phone etiquette for kids:


  • Use a Quiet Voice. Keep private things private and be considerate of those around you.
  • Be Polite. Always begin with a pleasant greeting.
  • Wait to Share. Before sharing personal details, make sure you know who is calling you.
  • Be Coherent. Use a slow, clear voice so others can understand you.
  • Give Details. Leave voicemails with your name, number, and why you’re calling.
  • Be discreet. Keep your notifications at a low volume so you don’t disturb others.
  • Be Pleasant. Choose a ringtone that isn’t obnoxious.
  • Protect Others. Don’t keep privacy a secret. If you’re going to make a public call, tell those around you.
  • Answer Promptly. Be quick to acknowledge and reply to messages, even if you’re going to respond later.
  • Be Safe. Answer emails and texts only if it’s safe and convenient.
  • Drive Responsibly. Don’t let your phone distract you while driving.

Staying Safe on the Internet

It’s easy to think we’re safe behind our screens, but if we’re not careful, information can spread quickly and anonymously. The best way to protect your children online is to discuss internet safety with them (Common Sense Census, 2019).

Only about a third of teens say their parents know ‘a lot’ about what they do online (32 percent), the apps they use (29 percent), or what they do on social media (32 percent).

—Common Sense Census, 2019

Being aware of how they spend their time online will also safeguard their hearts, minds, and privacy. According to Common Sense Media, “only about a third of teens say their parents know ‘a lot’ about what they do online (32 percent), the apps they use (29 percent), or what they do on social media (32 percent)” (Common Sense Census 2019). Conversations between kids and parents are the best way to understand children’s online behavior.

Helping Kids Protect Privacy

Youngsters must be taught how to respect and protect each other’s privacy online. Teach your child to ask for consent before sharing photos, videos, and social media posts, including personal information about others, like faces, license plates, or phone numbers. Encourage your child to be aware of their own digital footprint and be honest about how they present themselves online. Understanding the concept of digital permanence is essential. Once something has been posted online, it is there forever. Here are some best practices to share with your children:

Best online manners


  • Inform Others: Share online status updates with your family and friends in advance. 
  • Be Intentional: Think before you share your words, emojis, and punctuation.
  • Learn to Forgive: Be ready to understand that misunderstandings happen.
  • Be Respectful: Make sure your language isn’t disrespectful or hateful. Never be a troll.
  • Keep It Civil: Process your emotions before you post. 
  • Avoid Spamming: Don’t send repeated texts or phone calls. Allow people time to respond.
  • Be Kind: Don’t cyberbully anyone, in private or in public.
  • Stand Apart: If you’re a bystander, don’t like or share hurtful content.
  • Keep It Clean: Never send pictures of your private body parts online.

Conversation Starters

Frequent conversations are the easiest way to get kids to mind their manners online and on the phone. Don’t be afraid to share your own stories! Your kids will laugh and learn from you. Here are some ideas to start the conversation.

  • What kinds of information do you feel comfortable sharing about yourself and others online? What could be risky about making this information public?
  • What would you do if you saw someone bullied online? Have you ever experienced bullying from someone in this way? How could you help?
  • Have you ever heard of a digital footprint? Eventually, each of us will have a really big one! It’s important to pause and think before you post. How do you think your digital footprint might affect you in the future?
  • When is it okay to be on your phone when other people are around? When should we put our phones away?
  • How would you react if a stranger started messaging you online? What situations would make you uncomfortable? Let’s talk about a safety plan.
  • In what ways can you make your online platform a safe and positive place for yourself and others?

Learning netiquette takes time and practice. Talking it through together is a great way to see where they need more help. Expect missteps and bumps in the road—becoming safe and competent online takes knowledge, time, and practice.

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