Living in a connected world comes with certain rights and responsibilities. It is important that we all observe some common rules in order to make our virtual communication both worthwhile, and not misunderstandable while respecting each other’s rights. Here are a few important things to remember:

  • Let’s start with the most basic – when you write something in all caps IT IS LIKE YOU ARE YELLING AT YOUR AUDIENCE. Don’t be that person.
  • Be careful of your tone – reread your email or posting to make sure it can’t be misconstrued. Sarcasm is oftentimes hard to detect in the written word, so be careful about using it.
  • Keep your emails and posts short and to the point. With so much digital information flowing at us every day the short, concise email or posting is much more likely to be read and responded to.
  • If you are going to share things online that are not your own original works, make sure you have permission to share them. Simply citing where a photo comes from is not going to help you if that photo is copyrighted. Copyrighted materials require written permission in order to be used. Check this site for tons of free media resources that exist within either the public domain or are licensed under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license. These images and videos and sound clips you can share to your hearts content – as long as you follow the license and cite the source as/when requested.
  • Be nice. The Dalai Lama once said “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” This is a good rule to live by online. Just because someone appears to you as only an avatar, there is a living being, with feeling, behind every avatar. Be mindful of that before you fire back something angry or hateful.
  • If you are going to share the ideas of someone else online be sure to give credit where credit is due. Cite your source. Don’t allow people to think that someone else’s words are your own.
  • Please use proper English. I know that sometimes you need to abbreviate a word in order to make your entire thought fit into a Tweet. However, mangling written English just because you are posting online is horrific and does not represent you as an intelligent individual.
  • Consider who you have listed as friends on social media sites. It is only human to judge someone by the company they keep. If your feed is full of rants and curse words courtesy of your friends, it may be time to consider blocking their ability to post to your timeline, or “unfriending” them all together.
  • And finally, remember that everything you do online leaves behind a footprint. Whether you retract it or take it down, it is still out there, somewhere. Make sure that what you post is something that you would want (a) everyone to see, and (b) to live on forever as a representation of you.

This is most certainly not an all encompassing list, but it is a starting point and contains many of the most important points regarding being a good citizen in a connected world. I would love to hear your additions or thought on the list in the comments section. Please, share away, for knowledge is only valuable when shared.

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Bill is an eLearning Coach helping to facilitate meaningful integration of technology to enrich instruction, engage students & develop 21st century skills. He is dedicated to enthusiastic, dynamic and technologically rich teaching as a means of creating and nurturing a lifelong love of learning in children. He has over 15 years of classroom experience and was the 2006 Outstanding High School Educator for Vanderburgh County. Currently he is a doctoral candidate for a Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology degree with an emphasis on integrating technology, learning, and psychology. Bill maintains an active presence as presenter on the eLearning Conference circuit. He has a supportive wife Jeneen and wonderful son Zander.


  1. Great tips!!! I have copied these to a file and plan on sharing them with my students.

    This is a huge point of interest for me and I have had trouble getting started on how to teach this. I have found that most of the time the students know these things, but for some reason just fail to follow them. It is shaping my approach to teaching digital citizenship.

    I’ve got to connect to you to share some ideas with and try to formulate a plan on how to better teach this.

  2. I am a math teacher, but when I have students email me or make discussion posts on MBC; grammar is something I check on and try to correct. With that being said, it is AWFUL to try to make corrections and teach to some kids. In today’s digital age, besides teaching how to write essays and the required work we need to be showing the right way to write digital communications too. Even in math!

  3. Great post, Bill. It’s always so important to be a good digital citizen, and when you are connecting with others, that responsibility goes even farther. One thing that I would add to the list is the responsibility to assume best intentions on the part of someone else. As you pointed out, it is really easy to misconstrue the written word, and as the receiver of a message, I need to start from a place that gives the sender the benefit of the doubt when there is something that could be read in a negative way (at least until I confirm what the sender intended).

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