Good Rules for the Internet

Photo by Arne Heijenga, via Flickr

How do you communicate with other people on the internet? Nick Page and Liz Waid share rules for good behavior.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Nick Page.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

When you meet someone, always shake their hand.

Voice 2 

Say “please” when you ask for something.

Voice 1 

Stand up when an older person enters the room.

Voice 2 

Every country has a system of manners, that is, rules for behaviour. Each particular culture has a history of accepted behaviour. People teach these manners to their children. Everyone in a culture usually agrees on what is good behaviour and what is not.

Voice 1 

When you visit a new place, you need to learn the manners for that place. But what happens when many different people come together? What if they do not know the rules in this place? The internet is a place like this. Today’s Spotlight is on rules for behaviour on the internet.

Voice 2 

In 2012, 2 1/4 billion people across the world used the internet. People use the internet for many things. One of the most important is communication. The internet helps people communicate quickly. And there are many different ways to communicate using the internet. People email longer messages to friends or co-workers. They post short messages and links on social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Or people add their comments to news websites and online group discussions.

Voice 1 

But in all these ways of communicating, people sometimes write hurtful things. That is why many people think it is important to teach internet manners. Some schools and universities now teach students correct internet behaviour. There are many rules to follow. Today we will look at just a few of them by asking the questions: Who? What? How? and Where?


Voice 2 

The first question is who are you writing to? It is very important to remember that the other people using the internet are real people. This sounds funny but it is easy to forget. Rob Frappier is Community Manager at the company He helps people communicate safely on the internet. He says:

Voice 4 

“It can be hard to relate to people you are talking to online. In real life, you would not openly insult someone to his or her face. So why do it on the internet? Reading hurtful words online is just as bad as hearing them in person.”

Voice 1 

People may be less careful to have good manners online. This may be because they do not have to use their real name. This protects people but it can also affect their behaviour. Randi Zuckerberg is the marketing director for Facebook. She thinks that the internet would be better if people used their real names. She told a discussion group:

Voice 5 

“People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. I think people take advantage when no one knows their real name.  They feel like they can say whatever they want because no one can see them.”


Voice 2 

Secondly, consider what to write on the internet. Everything a person writes online will stay on the internet forever! And a person does not know who will see what she writes. Heather Armstrong learned this when she wrote about her workplace online. She tells her story on her website

Voice 6 

“I started this website in February 2001. A year later I was fired from my job because of this website. I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is do not do this. Never write about work on the internet unless your manager knows and agrees to you doing it.”

Voice 1 

Many people have had problems with their job this way. Some people have even had problems with friends or family members. Shelley Wutke writes for the website She teaches people and companies how to protect themselves online. She shares this idea:

Voice 7 

“Follow the five-minute rule before you post online. The next time you are tempted to send a negative post - wait five minutes before sending it. You may change your mind about what you want to write. By waiting you will have saved yourself from possible problems.”


Voice 2 

The next question to ask is how to write online. The most important thing is to fit the situation. For example: Christy uses the internet for work and for her social life. When using the internet at work, she always makes sure that she has spelled words correctly. She writes in full sentences with correct language. But at home, Christy uses a different way of communicating on the internet. She uses less correct words and smiley faces. Christy knows which way to communicate in each situation.

Voice 1 

One thing that is especially difficult to communicate over the internet is humour. When people speak face to face they can hear the way a voice sounds. They see a person’s face and body language. Without voice and body language it is very easy to understand something wrongly. Rob Frappier of talks about the Golden Rule. That is, you should always treat people the way you would like to be treated. He says:

Voice 4 

“The Golden Rule is especially important when it comes to what you say and how you say it on the internet. Before posting anything online, think about what you are saying. Is it unkind? Would you be happy if someone attacked you in the same way?  The Golden Rule works as well on the internet as it does in real life. Do your best to obey it.”


Voice 2 

The last part of internet manners is asking where you are sending messages. It is easy to accidentally send messages to the wrong person. Check that you have the right address before sending any messages online. Make sure that you are sending something that the person will want to receive. And remember to protect yourself and other people by removing addresses and personal information.

Voice 1 

More and more people are using the internet. They use it for more and more purposes. Internet use will probably increase even more in the future. So, it is important for people to know the rules of good behaviour. Who, what, how and where are important questions for every person who uses the internet.

Voice 2 

Have you ever been hurt by something over the internet? Or sent a message to the wrong person? Tell Spotlight about it on our Facebook page - just search for spotlightradio. Or you can email us at

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Good Rules for the Internet’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Have you ever had a bad experience with people on the internet? Have you ever had a good experience? What was it like?


Avatar Spotlight
Rain Bows
said on November 19, 2012

Thanks Spotlight,
This article was very helpful and I definitely agree!.
We should all use internet correctly as a good communication tool. And with friends or social partners we we should all use our language correctly all the time.
I like websites like Spotlight which are very helpful and people who join here want to grow as person and we all have that in common.
And thanks to Spotlight I got inspired to give free classes for children with low resources. I’m going to focus on painting and human values. Teaching them some English too if possible.
Great week to everyone!

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on November 20, 2012

The article is very interesting.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 22, 2012

thank you for spotlight

Edu Berenguer's avatar
Edu Berenguer
said on November 25, 2012

Hi everybody! I confess that I really liked this program. It is very modern and contextualised, because we are living on the time of information and internet. Each day the system is fastier and the people need to know how to have good behaviors in the world, including the Web World. I suppose that all people over the world should listen to this program. When we are doing on the internet we common see the people action/ people behavior and we can conclude that this is not satisfactory yet. It is most common the see people selfish and bad educated leaving comments and messing all in the internet. One of the most important thing that no one should forget is this: WE MUST RESPECT EACH OTHER. We have to APPLY the Gold Rule like the program told us. This rule is very necessary in the actual world we live. It seems doesn’t exist any respect among the people. They forgot how to treat their similars. Their mind is day after day messy. It is serious situation. Think about this. How long this situation will stay like it??? Each one of us should change and BE THE CHANGE THAT WE WANT SO SEE IN THE WORLD.


Sultan's avatar
said on December 19, 2012

Manners are important for our conduct in the society. Manners make us gentlemen. We are called gentlemen when we show good manners. Good manners make friends for us. Good manners are quite essential for us. So, students should try to observe good manners at every place. Teachers should guide them in this respect. Great articles to read and listen!

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 27, 2013

more and more people take advantage of internet to do bad things. internet is important but it is also too dangerous if you do not control yourself or your children. the young can learn bad things from internet.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 03, 2013

I all agree with this Golden Rule - it is necessary treat people the way you would like to be treated. Each of us should obey this excellent rule and never infringe it, it’s sure!
Thanks for very instructive, useful article!

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 03, 2013

Hello, spotlight program I think when someone uses internet has to be responsable and very educated cause it shows us that person is friendly and very nice for meeting her/him face to face. When you want to express something about you want, first Think about it many times, then verify if the message espresses what you want people understand and be creative to write a message that expresses something new and interesting.

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 03, 2013

Thank you for tell us about these important messages…sometimes I use the Internet to communicate with my friends and other people. I have not had any problems until now.
But we need to be careful…

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 02, 2015

yes , Im a user the internet and very disappointed about someone tell some bad words on the internet .I definetly agree with spotlight about someone are not shy when they tell some bad words because noone can know who they are , and that why they can tell fluently and not shy about bad words . I think it actually becomes a big problem if we dont care . The young generations will be poisonous with bad words . Regards!

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 24, 2015

In developing information tecnology age,people spend most time in internet to look for necessary Inf or connect to other people all over the world.But we have to use internet with right purpose and good manner to avoid hurting someone!

Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on February 25, 2015

Behind a flat-world look like screen of monitor, we don’t know exactly who are chatting with. But we can asses their education through a sentence that they type then send to us.

Internet is always good for someone who know to use it effectively as continuous improvement skill and knowledge. But it is very dangerous when someone like to access a black-website.

A big thing were given to us by internet that is linking people closely via communication online.

Thanks sportlight program.

Avatar Spotlight
said on February 28, 2015

Four rules mentioned in this article are certainly excellent, helpful bur there is another important issue concerning the children using the Internet often carelessly, they need urgently to be learned, instructed by parents how to communicate on the Internet safely. Moreover, it is necessary to say the parents should supervise regularly children’s behaviour on the Internet to protect them from the serious danger that children mostly are not able to realize. Internet represents the positive possibilities in human communication just as getting the considerable information but this global medial area may hide many dark, dangerous places too. Simply, we have to behave on the Internet with consideration and decency, however, we mustn’t forget carefulness in no case.

muadibchik86's avatar
said on March 13, 2015

I think, people will have been sending hurtful words before that the hand of Justice to respond immediately:)

Avatar Spotlight
kin chong
said on July 03, 2015

This is a useful article of spotlight English.I used to hurt other people on the internet.And also I really was hurt by some of them on the internet.Now I understand that feeling when hurt other and be hurt by them.That is not a comfortable feeling.Now I changed my behaviour on the internet and I feel good when changing.Communicating politely is a good way of life,it is better for our life.Thank you Spotlight.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on April 30, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Saturday 30 April 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Rena Dam, and Nick Page:

First of all I want to thank you to develop more one important issue for us readers and learners of English.
Yes, I have. Yes, I have. It was a respectful and pleasant dialogue between shop assistant and customer. The customer was I so I was buying something on the internet at an online store. For that reason I needed some information about the product in which I was looking for.  Therefore, we should have good manners and behaviour at any place. My grandparents Always said to me that you should Always treat people the way you would like to be treated.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 12, 2016

Thanks Spotlight.
I often use facebook, but i rarely comment on facebook. I have a friend, she posts frequently status about her feeling on facebook. Sometime, she writes something wrong about other people. I think i will send her this article

Avatar Spotlight
Mabel Estrella
said on May 28, 2016

Yes in many times, I’ve had bad experience, because I’ve written about politics against our president, because there are a lot of things that affects us. For that reason people who support the goverment send me awful messages but I won’t want to fight only read and reply with other message that let me explain the best form the topyc.

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 22, 2016

It did not get to be abused on the Internet, but I sent a letter to a wrong person, and then it was very difficult to explain it and apologize, be aware when sending e-mail , really its not that easy issue to recover !

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on December 07, 2017

I had a bad experience with people on the internet especially cause I’m become a CHRISTIAN convert from ISLAM. Some people attack me. Some people cursingandswearing me. My family exposure to paining (I’m Refugee at Ethiopia now).
And I had a good experience; I got a good friend by FACEBOOK.
God bless you

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 08, 2020

Thank you for more a great program.
The Internet is a great communication tool. The world can be classified into BI and AI (before the Internet / after the Internet). I think we should use the Internet in the same way that we use to interact daily in our normal lives.
When someone seems uncomfortable, I use ironic words instead of profanity to respond to the inconvenience, or I don’t respond at all. I have a very good rule: I never talk about my job with someone outside and I never judge a co-worker, for better or worse.

Avatar Spotlight
Tin Le
said on April 14, 2020

This is a great topic. Thank you!

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 17, 2020

We are living on the time of technology and information. Every day the system is faster and people need to know how to behave well in the internet. We should use the internet as a good communication tool and use language properly for everyone. Because an insulting statement can cause deep hurt to a person. In addition, it will cause psychological illnesses such as depression. Sportlight has put in place measures to help people control their speech.  I think these measures very helpful and everyone can follow to help themselves become better.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 23, 2020

I’m Japanese. Today, there was a terrible news in Japan. A famous pro-wrestler, who is female died. And maybe she committed a suicide because of many criticisms on the internet. Before she killed herself, she posted on some social media that ” I’m sorry. I want to be loved. Good bye.” It’s too sad. I cannot know what to say. The person who criticized her frequently on the internet deleted his account. He is a surely killer. I think the internet is terrible because there some people feel like they can say anything they want to say thanks to anonymous. I can’t help feeling that there are some crazy person in the world. Sorry for negative comment.