By Kari Jenkins
It has been estimated that roughly 40% of adults experience cyberbullying. Although commonly thought of as a problem that affects youth and teens, online harassment can be a major problem for adults in almost every area of the web. Unfortunately, these problems can arise even when learning a second language online. One of the best strategies that you can use to stay safe on the internet is to practice online etiquette. Learn more about this form of etiquette, and how it can help both you and your children avoid online abuse.
When seeking to prevent online abuse and bullying as a parent (or for yourself), having zero tolerance for this type of behavior is a must. Whether it is you or your child who is practicing their second language online, you should both be educated about the signs of cyberbullying. If someone you are communicating with threatens you or is abusive in other ways, you should report the interaction to website staff immediately. In order to provide helpful information about the occurrence, it is recommended that you disengage from the conversation right away. Do not say hurtful or negative things back to the cyberbully, as this could land you in trouble as well. Next, take a screen capture of the full dialogue exchange. If you are on a platform that allows you to download a transcript of your conversation as a PDF or as another file type, do this as well. After stepping back from the conversation and gathering evidence, send all information about the conversation to website administrators. Finally, if the individual with whom you were communicating made specific threats, be sure to reach out to local law enforcement to report the incident.
Aside from instances of cyberbullying, it is still of top importance to practice online etiquette when communicating with all individuals. While it is easy to be aware of how others communicate with you, you and your children should also be aware of how various types of communication can be perceived. This is especially important online, since only 7% of a message is derived from words, and the rest comes from nonverbal communication. For example, the use of sarcasm is strongly discouraged for multiple reasons. First, when you are communicating in a second language, this type of humor is not perceived in the same way by all cultures. Therefore, what is intended as a joke may appear insensitive or offensive. Additionally, even if you are communicating with someone from your own culture, there is room for misunderstanding without the presence of non-verbal cues. Also, be sure to avoid writing in all caps, and skip potentially unclear abbreviations.
Whether you are speaking with someone for the first time or the 15th time, the goal of your online dialogue should be to extend kindness and courtesy. Even if you feel like you know someone well, there are certain rules that should always be followed when seeking to practice online etiquette. The first is to avoid profanity completely. Although some individuals may find the use of certain words acceptable in specific contexts, there are many more people with alternative opinions. To avoid a potential miscommunication or the perception of cyberbullying, it is safest to skip the use of profane words altogether. Next, be highly respectful of cultural differences. When practicing a second language online, you will almost certainly encounter those who have cultural beliefs (e.g. how work is performed, how children are raised) that are different from your own. As a result, either be prepared to speak respectfully about such issues should they arise, or avoid them completely. Along the same lines, steer clear of potentially controversial subjects (e.g. political issues, religion). Despite the best of intentions, these issues can quickly erupt into an exchange of harsh words, anger and frustration. If you have agreed to speak about a subject that could be deemed controversial, be sure to stick to facts, and use a gentle and respectful tone at all times.
Practicing your second language with people from different cultures and backgrounds is an exciting opportunity. Although most conversations are educational and friendly, it is still essential to be aware of the potential issues that can arise online. By utilizing the fundamentals of online etiquette, you can ensure that your conversations go as smoothly as possible. Online Etiquette Tips When Practicing A Second Language