If you read comments at the end of articles or blog postings — even at some of the respected newspapers and magazines — you have surely discovered more than a few inappropriate and sometimes distasteful remarks. Sometimes people leave these comments anonymously — individuals who do not understand why websites invite visitors to share thoughts and ideas. Sadly, many unfiltered remarks are permanently attached to websites — personal indiscretions (digital footprints) waiting for the whole world to discover. Even leaving an anonymous comment is not particularly secure, though many people — kids and adults — think they are off the hook and hiding when they leave comments without a name attached.
Read a short post and watch a video on newspaper comments, uploaded by the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. Some newspapers sites, such as the Boston Globe, have updated their policies and now post a short and succinct comment policy that tells users what the publication expects from comment writers.
Helping your child avoid public website blunders, not to mention future humiliation, is one reason to discuss commenting etiquette on a regular basis. Children don’t know or they forget that all comments leave digital footprint trails, little paths of information that last much longer than a child’s pre-adolescent and even teenage years.
Confusion arises because many children first encounter commenting opportunities in places where adult supervision is scarce. As a result, an impulsive idea can beat out good common sense even when a child knows better. Bottom line — response and commenting areas are not places to leave nasty, sarcastic, rude, or hateful conversation.