Netiquette: How to teach your child digital manners

Netiquette: How to Teach Your Child Digital Manners

Children as young as seven are now active users of social media. They are creating a digital footprint that will follow them into adulthood, but most are too young to understand the impact this may have on their lives.

Protocol and etiquette intelligence expert Julie Lamberg-Burnet talks about the challenges this presents to today’s parents and how we can guide our children to behave in a positive digital way.

It’s not the need for etiquette and protocols that has changed across the centuries; it’s the landscape, says founder and CEO of The Sydney School of Protocol, Julie Lamberg-Burnet.

“Across the domains of communication, the competitive job market and relationship building, people want to know how to act and behave appropriately in a range of business, personal and cultural settings. An early introduction to social media for children is a positive strategy for living in a digital world.

Both parents and schools play a major role in educating children how to navigate across digital channels including social media and to develop a positive online persona for their future,” she says.

“Channels such as Facebook, Skype, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and YouTube have provided a way for families and friends to stay in touch across the globe and engage with each other more often. This is a positive. However, being part of a community brings with it expectations and responsibilities. Teaching our children to be deliberate with their manners when using social media is important, no matter what platform they are on.”

The Sydney School of Protocol offers a two-hour course for teens aged 12 to 17 in Communication Skills, including social media.

She offers these seven ‘Netiquette’ tips for turning digital communication into an asset rather than a liability in your child’s life:

Take the High Ground

Instead of reading and reviewing every conversation and piece of information your children share online, set standards for your children and yourself around the style of communication, with whom and how often. Openly discuss with your children what types of platforms are good, including what these types of platforms are good for and why people use them. Explore the communication channels your children use and become familiar with the various technologies.

To achieve a balanced approach, educate children to use the channels appropriately. For example, social media is often used as a means of avoidance. Encourage your children to use the phone or face-to-face interactions more often to connect with friends.

Rather than limiting online interactions, have an open dialogue with the children about the good, bad and the ugly. Discuss situations that can arise on social media. Setting guidelines for using social media is as natural as educating our children in life skills. To prevent online dialogue from descending into emotional exchanges, bullying, and mean-spirited comments they would not say face-to-face, a good mantra to adopt is to project the same manners you would if the conversation was conducted in person.

Set Rules Before Something Goes Wrong

The big issue with children playing with strangers online is that you may never know if another player is an adult or child. However, playing online with another child you don’t know can also be dangerous if the friendship goes sour.

Set rules about what to do if they encounter disturbing content or contact from others in online games is most important. Be sure children know that if they experience bullying or sexting, they should let an adult know immediately.

Your Personal ‘Brand’

It is your image. Think about how you wish to represent yourself and your values, and what this means for paving a way for your future success. Not only does what you say matter, how you say it reflects on you.

Remember that whatever we post might be read and seen by numerous people including parents, grandparents, the family who engage a babysitter, the local café who may wish employ, teachers and colleagues.

Get into a good habit of checking spelling and grammar, word choice, punctuation as this reflects your brand. For example, capitalization indicates you are “shouting”. Thoughtfulness and good manners go a long way to building a positive, personal brand on digital channels.

Privacy Settings

Ensure privacy settings are discussed and put into place for security. Provide children with the rationale around the need for safety and use of privacy settings. Provide your children with a good understanding of the impact of posting and that posts remain on Google and are not eliminated. There is no hiding from anything in the digital world.

What To Avoid

1) Viewing your messages and devices 24/7. Turn off all digital devices prior to getting into bed and leave them to ‘sleep’ away from the bedroom, to avoid the temptation of checking posts.

2) Falling into gossip, bitching, lies and making excuses on line – never use words you would not say to someone’s face. Think before you comment.

Don’t Forget People Are Real

Learn to be flexible and engage with friends, colleagues and your digital followers in a variety of ways. Remember some discussions and conversations are best-handled offline.

Achieve a balance and use your channels to form positive relationships and to complement face to face communications. Be aware, for example, of how best to manage your friendships and distance yourself from a friend or a colleague that is not having a positive impact on you and your life.


As adults we are all guilty of spending too many minutes of the day checking our social media and email feeds. Be mindful as parents that children will follow suit, mimic and imitate, when they observe these behaviours on a regular basis. Set standards and bring the family all in alignment for a balanced and safe approach to communication. Treat dining as a time to engage in face-to-face conversations – start a habit as a family in 2017 and keep phones and technology off and away from the table or dining situations. Your children will be thankful in the future for your advice and for learning the art of conversation.

Want to know more about online safety? Go to

Julie Lamberg-Burnet is the Founder and Director of the Sydney School Of Protocol, She is certified as a consultant in corporate etiquette and international protocol by The Protocol School of Washington®, which is accredited by America’s Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training and recognised by the United States Department of Education.

Image by Dmitri Popov