Tip #4 If You Have Nothing Nice to Post, Don’t Post Anything At All

May 29

Growing up in the seventies and eighties, one of the most repeated phrases by teachers and parents was: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Back then, it was in every mom’s verbal arsenal of handy tips for kids, alongside the advice to respond to nasty friends’ insults with a sing-song “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” – my personal favourite. I recall singing it to mean girls as I swung ever higher on some kid’s backyard wooden swing.  The kids may have been mean, but damn if I was going to leave a yard with such an awesome play set! Just sing a righteous rhyme at them and it’d all be fine.

The majority of us have some difficulty being nasty to someone face-to-face. The internet, however, removes that personal barrier thanks to its complete anonymity. Anyone can leave a nasty comment and exit the site without concern that the person you are insulting will either punch you in the mouth or burst into tears. No consequences, right? Uh, wrong. Any logical adult can comprehend the reality that mean words create negative feelings, whether the assault is verbal or virtual.

Etiquette and netiquette aren’t all that different, really. The formula is simple: unkind words breed negativity while kind words, well, breed all that good stuff. And, saying nothing at all is better than the former.  Yet a quick read of the comments under many blog posts or youtube videos indicates that there are a lot of folks with no qualms about posting malicious content.

We have the opportunity to teach today’s kids that the internet is an opportunity to spread goodness. This is easier to do if we advise them to treat online communities like real ones. If you wouldn’t speak like that in your classroom, it’s not okay to share that type of language online, either.

If I can teach my boys to refrain from calling one another mean names (something we’re still working on), it’s going to be that much easier to teach them to delete an unkind comment before clicking ‘Post’. After all, words often slip from our lips before the mind even registers it. Whereas we time time to re-think our response while typing a post. And spending that extra time to reconsider is more important than ever because a verbal insult can dissolve over time but an online post lasts forever.

All the more reason to practice the newest phrase for advice-giving parents: “If you have nothing nice to post, don’t post anything at all.”

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