The Text Commandments: New Rules for Online Messaging

The Text Commandments: New Rules for Online Messaging
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Texting is today’s one of most popular forms of communication amongst teens, tweens, and kids of all ages. But what are appropriate rules of conduct surrounding these exchanges – and what should children be keeping in mind while taking part in them to make sure they’re minding their manners online? Up until now, answers have been hard to find. Thankfully, as we point out in new book The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks, a little mindfulness and forethought are all it takes to enjoy more positive high-tech interactions. Below, you’ll find ten tips for safer texting that can help you and your family put your best foot forward online.

Don’t text or talk while driving or in motion.

Texting or talking on your cell phone while driving may distract you, impair reaction times and endanger others, and should therefore be avoided at all costs. Hands-free wireless Bluetooth headsets may mitigate some issues, but the best solution is to pull over, park and finish conversations before resuming travel. Also be sure to maintain situational awareness when in motion. At no time should you be so transfixed by a screen that you cannot safely navigate. Staring at a screen while walking isn’t just rude – it’s also potentially dangerous to yourself and others, and can result in unexpected stumbles, collisions or even serious injury.

Save important exchanges for offline interactions.

Text messaging is strictly casual in nature, and inappropriate for weightier or more meaningful communications. For more important news or interactions (ending a relationship, sharing unfortunate events, etc.) a phone call or in-person exchange is more appropriate.

Be conscious of how you communicate.

When abbreviating messages, show knowledge and respect of how the other party may interpret these communications – texts sent to your grandmother should look differently than texts sent to a teen, as each will comprehend and react to messages differently. Note that slang, jargon, grammatical errors, and misspellings may save time and give messages a hint of character, but may reflect poorly upon you or send the wrong message about your personal communication skills.

Make a proper introduction.

When texting people for the first time, or those who don’t have your name and number in their contacts listing or address books, be certain to introduce yourself and/or remind them of where you met. (“Hi, this is Scott, the netiquette guy. For our chat at 11A about corporate training services, where would you like to connect?”)

Consider how messages may be interpreted.

As with emails or any form of written high-tech communication, note that tone or intention may be hard to convey through texting, and messages may be perceived incorrectly or taken out of context. Consider before sending if the information is best conveyed with a phone call, short note or alternate form of communication.

Keep private information confidential.

Avoid texting private, embarrassing, intimate or confidential details, as these messages aren’t just inappropriate to send – they’re also all too easy to forward on and into the hands of unwanted parties. Double check names and numbers before texting as well, especially if making an important statement, lest you risk accidentally reach out to the wrong party.

Refrain from sending inappropriate messages.

Sexting – the practice of sending sexually explicit material, including nude photos or lascivious references – is unacceptable and inappropriate under any circumstance. A major high-tech breach of conduct, it may also lead to embarrassment or prosecution.

Keep spam to a minimum.

Show courtesy for others’ time, patience and phone bill by switching from group texts to reaching out to individuals via direct texts when the conversation becomes irrelevant to others, and ask that they reciprocate.

Be short and sweet.

Texts should be kept brief – if you need to say more than can be fit into a few lines, write an email or pick up the phone instead. Be respectful of others and don’t carpet bomb them with texts – before sending, consider if they really need to receive your commentary in parts, or a smiley face separate from the main body of the message.

Don’t get snarky.

Should you accidentally receive a text intended for someone else, a simple “sorry, wrong number” will suffice to prevent further communication. Resist the temptation to be rude, snarky or annoyed when responding, and realize that ignoring the missive may result in subsequent attempts at communication.

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