The use of the internet and its feeder platforms such as social media are part of the outstanding discoveries of the 21st century and laudable milestones in the development of information technology and communication. The colossal interactions online has raised concern for etiquette online giving rise to the term netiquette. Netiquette is basically ethics of interactions online to ensure the respect, the moral values and virtues in real life are maintained online as well.
The issue of how to go about in raising awareness especially amongst the young people who happen to be the major users of social users brings an interesting discussion: should the school curriculum include netiquette?. As it is schools which is actually one of the centers of socialization in life have incorporated much of the internet dynamics from using it a learning tool, an extensive tool for education discussions, applications, research and even used by employers in recruiting.
This confers some level of responsibility to schools in teaching about the internet, social media, its uses, its effects and how to ensure greatest good for all while using it. On the other hand, teachers in schools as it is are overwhelmed by the crowded curriculum with many social issues being passed on from parents to teachers. This means that while the teachers might be willing to help, they don’t have the time nor actually sufficient resources on how to about it.
Besides, making netiquette as part of the curriculum does not leave that personal touch; it could just be like another physics class that one might never apply in the future. The reality is that schools are already embracing use of the internet and so what are they doing in regards to raising awareness about it especially amid the rise in global cyber bullying.
Netiquette is a slang portmanteau term derived from the word network and etiquette. It refers to online ethics of communication in terms of what is socially acceptable in a digital world where majority of people rely on online platform to participate in society events. This term is commonly used alongside another contracted word: netizen which is derived from the words internet and citizen to refer to persons who have accepted the responsibility of using the digital space in a productive and socially liable way.
The reality on the ground is that there is so much hate, so much breach of etiquette online, and breed of heightened insecurities in the form of drug and human trafficking, terrorism, slavery, sexual exploitation, and political upheavals. It is on these lines that the argument of whether to include netiquette in school curriculum has gained momentum with many academia, psychologists and experts in cyber crimes issue having differing opinions on the way forward. The truth is that use of social media and the internet in general has a bitter sweet effect.
No one is ignorant to the horror stories that constantly bombard the news and the internet of social media use gone wrong. On the same front, the internet is part of the grand discoveries of the 21st century and its use can have far reaching impact when used well. Over time we have seen the use of online platform bridge distances, foster social interactions of people from various backgrounds, demystify cancerous stereotypes, and bolster e-learning by providing spaces to continue classroom conversations and discussions online devoid of distances.
Indeed the use of the internet has propelled education to new levels with youngsters starting to use social media sites such as Moodle, TeacherTube, and Edmodo for class assignments and discussions with fellow students. Besides, online courses have become acceptable with most colleges investing in e-learning to counter time and location constraints in real time. Besides, most companies use the internet and social media platforms as a tool in screening potential candidates.
This, therefore, necessities the need to integrate netiquette in school curriculum since we live in a digital age where much of life activities’ are now done online and developments in information technology keep on synthesizing in a way that makes the use of the internet a necessity rather than optional. Since, we all humans have found this digital space, where we all randomly converge to discuss a variety of issues there is need to ensure peace and respect for all users and this can only be achieved if some ground rules are put in place to regulate the interactions. This is where netiquette comes in handy.
Generally, being a responsible netizen and using netiquette means fundamentally recognizing that the internet is not a new form of space or extension of the existing planet earth, but an extension of the existing society where humans can mingle in a much more easy way. It also means extending the same standards and values of life when interacting with strangers and known persons online. This means that the same moral values that the society has set in place against vices such as hate speech, discrimination, bigotry, drug abuse, child pornography, sexual exploitation, human slavery, and copyright violations amongst others remain intact.
This extends to the virtues of honesty, kindness, respect, confidentiality, and generally treating others how we would like to be treated in return. The new digital space also means that the existing laws of the land which endeavor to protect citizens’ rights and dignity apply to actions committed online. This explains why the issue of cyber crimes and laws to curb such vices has gained international attention and prominence in domestic states.
Part of being a netizen and maintaining netiquette means acknowledging that humanity is as a diverse as ever in terms of race, culture, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and sex among other differences even when national boundaries seem to be breaking down. This means that what was once considered acceptable culture in Europe for instance cannot be assumed to be the world culture by default. Thus need to find a new way to reconcile the differences and accepting the differences as the stronghold of humanity in general. Over time, online platforms have grown from being simply sites of social interactions avenues but places to boost business.
In this regard, companies marketing online practice business netiquette by respecting the right to privacy by the clients’ online and maintaining transparency in the policies and products to ensure full understanding of the products and transfer of liability to the client once they purchase the product.
On the other hand, the reality on the ground is that teachers in schools are already bogged down with too much to teach in very few days. The present curriculum is overcrowded with standard tests, physical education, religion, and sex education classes as much of the parents roles continue to be outsourced to the teachers.
Besides, the outcome of teaching cyber bullying in schools if the results from teaching sex education in schools is anything to go about, indicates that the roots problem is left sticking out. For sure schools can teach about social media, its growth, use, and challenges, but cannot address individual responsibility on the use of these platforms. It is no wonder why the issue of social media has become mired with competing value systems, thus leaving many schools with no option but to ban the use of social media in schools.
The other sad reality is that life outside the internet is still vibrant, and the many ghastly acts on social media are just but a reflection of the real world, thus much focus should be on etiquette in general and not social media etiquette, since the former informs the latter. Good values, good morals, and virtues cannot be learned in school alone. The process of socialization is so diverse and begins at home, continues in schools and become entrenched latter through various interaction with the society. The role of etiquette in general is thus a responsibility of everyone in the society and if they schools chose to play their role through including netiquette lessons in schools curriculum, then that would not be a bad thing all together.