The internet is filled with opportunities to explore, create and collaborate. But to make the most of these opportunities, it’s important to keep the web safe and secure. This task is a shared responsibility among every netizen.
Learning internet etiquette or ‘netiquette’ is the first step in helping promote a safe and friendly online environment. When you keep yourself safe and secure online, you minimize the power of cybercrime, which includes identity theft, information theft, and even cyber-bullying.
Here are five key things to remember when navigating the world wide web:
1. Download with caution. One of the most wonderful things about the internet is the vast amount of content it offers; we can find just about anything online if we look hard enough. While some of the things we come across are so awesome that we want to be able to access them while we’re offline, we have to be cautious when it comes to downloading. Only download from credible and trusted sources.
Sometimes it’s not the things that we find that we have to be careful about, but the things that come to us. Be wary of opening or downloading email attachments even if it’s from someone you know, and especially if it isn’t something you expect to be receiving. Double check that the email address is from the reputable source it may claim to be from and that the content does not look suspicious.
2. Safeguard delicate information. There are so many ways our over-sharing can leave us vulnerable to identity or information theft. Aside from creating strong passwords, keep usernames, account numbers, and any sort of information that could be used to verify your identity, safe. Think before you tweet your dog’s name if it’s a security question on any of your accounts—or better yet, opt for more reliable methods of authentication, such as 2-step verification codes or back-up email addresses.
3. Don’t contribute to spreading false or hurtful information. We’ve all fallen victim to believing—or at least coming close to believing—a viral hoax. Just as gossip or juicy stories spread like wildfire offline, it can do so at an even greater scale online. And it doesn’t have to be hurtful to be harmful, either. Employ a healthy skepticism with anything you hear or see online, and do some fact checking before you share.
4. Act courteously, even in anonymity. Remember, the Golden Rule or the universal ethical code to ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ also applies on the Internet. Be kind and courteous. The use of tormenting, harassing or humiliating language are as real and as damaging online as they are face-to-face. Appropriate language is not only necessary in formal letters, but also in day-to-day chatsa on social media.
5. Flag or report inappropriate content. Online communities often rely on users to generate content and flag ones that violate community guidelines. In the case of YouTube—with more than 300 hours of videos being uploaded every minute—flagging or reporting questionable content is invaluable to preserving it as a safe and enjoyable resource, just as in most online communities. If you come across content that you think shouldn’t be there, report it.
These are only the basics of proper netiquette. The Internet is always evolving, so it’s important to maintain an up-to-date understanding of how to stay safe and secure online. Share these five rules of netiquette with your friends and family to help promote an enjoyable and useful Internet for all.