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What Teens Want You to Know About Online Etiquette in Their World

May 05, 2020

by Laura Higgins

Digital Well-Being

Ask any kid or teen: do your parents understand your online world? Their answer will probably be “no.” At the same time, it’s becoming extremely important for parents to get a better understanding of their kids’ online lives—especially now when online social interactions and virtual play are filling a much-needed void during weeks of social distancing.

Things have changed quite radically since we were young. In our childhood days, kids were seen but not heard. You were expected to say “ma’am” and “sir,” respect your elders, and just do as you were told. Some of us were lucky to have parents who encouraged our independence, creativity, and imagination, but many grew up in more directed childhoods, probably involving academia and sports. While we still want kids to have good manners and be respectful, many of the old ways have become obsolete in the online environment with technology evolving at this mind-boggling pace (same goes for advice given by schools or online safety experts 10 years ago!).

As we encourage parents to be present in their kids’ online lives, the best way to learn is to just ask your kid and teen experts. Just like parents who have lots of life lessons to impart from the past, they are forming their own experiences, just in the online world. Here are a few common questions and examples that can help parents understand the new “online etiquette” and be more in touch with their kids and teens’ new realities.

It’s very hard to interrupt my teen when they’re gaming. What’s the best way to get their attention and do what I (or another family member) want/need them to do?

You may be sick of having the same argument, “but Mom, I’m in a game!” Can’t you just stop? Sure, it can be irritating, but imagine you’re watching a film and someone comes and switches it off 5 minutes before the end. You’d be quite frustrated, right? Quora answers on the topic also include this great analogy from Oktay Şen:

“Suppose you’re cooking some steak in your kitchen, and someone demands that you immediately stop what you’re doing and leave the house. Now, if you actually left immediately, the stove would still be on, and within a few hours, the steak would burn, everything would be set on fire and you would lose everything”.

Many of the most popular games played by kids and teens today don’t have a pause function, and they will likely be with their friends working together to win each round, or perhaps they are competing against each other in real-time. If one person drops out, they can all lose or your teen can lose their points or advantage in the game. The pressure to not let their friends down, alongside the desire to finish what they have been working towards, can be huge and can, unfortunately, lead to rebellion.

Try and get an understanding of the games your kids play. Ask them questions! If this game has rounds, discuss the time you expect them to log off and ask them not to start a new round if it nears that time. Not all rounds take the same amount of time, so they may struggle to tell you exactly when they’ll be finished. It’s best if you let your kid tell you when they at least expect to be done, so you can show a great example of collaboration and trust as a parent.

I expect my teen to put their phone away when I ask. How much notice should I give?

Similar to leaving a game in progress, suddenly leaving an online chat can also be perceived as disrespectful. If your kids are using a chat app, chatting with friends while gaming, or even live streaming, allow them a few minutes’ notice to wrap up the conversation.

For example, if you are on the phone with a friend and your kids are calling for you, you’d also expect to have a few extra minutes to finish what you are saying and wrap up the call. We often don’t treat our kids and teens’ activities and interactions with the same level of respect, while in reality, the same etiquette should apply! Let them finish up what they were saying, have a wrap-up (this could be agreeing when they are going online next or where they are meeting at school tomorrow), and then say goodbye. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, but it will save a lot of stress on both sides!

My kids hate it when I post their photos on social media. Should I ask for their permission before I do?

Be a good role model. This means more than just using safe apps and behaving appropriately online. One thing teens really hate is “sharenting,” where parents post every detail of their kids’ lives online, often without permission. What message does this send to them? That they can take pictures of their friends and post them online without asking? That it’s okay to write an update that their friend has been out of school because they have a virus? This information is private, and we as adults should show them that everyone has a right to say what is posted online about them. Even if they do look cute in those baby pictures.

This article originally appeared on SuperParent.