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Teenangels / Scrapbook / Articles / Think Before You Click "Send"

Think Before You Click "Send"

One of the biggest problems we have online is that no one thinks between their brain dump typing and clicking "send." One of my friends, when she says something rude or inappropriate, smiles and says "oh, did I say that out loud?!" That's because we all think rude and inappropriate things, but generally don't say them out loud. There is a filter between what we think and our mouths called "being polite." (There are special rules for being polite in cyberspace, called "netiquette."You can learn more about these rules at Ms. Parry's Guide to Netiquette.)

Generally this filter kicks in when we are looking someone in the eyes and envision how they would respond and how others around you would respond if you say what you really wish you could say. But when we sit in front of the computer, there are no eyes to look into. Just us and the computer monitor. And just as we can say outrageous things in our diaries, typing them online seems private. It is also fun to say things that you know you shouldn't say. Wouldn't it be really kewl to tell that bully off? Or tell your best friend how mean they were.or that snotty girl in class that she really isn't as gorgeous as she thinks she is.or that "popular" guy how he is just stupid? Or tell your teacher that she isn't as smart as she thinks, or [fill in the blank]? Everyone has things they wish they could say. But usually when we break the rules and say them, we wish we could take it back.

But you can never really take it back. And when you send or post something online, it lives on forever in archives, caching and other the energizer bunny, it keeps on going and going and going.

So, what can you do? Find the superhero within you. Find your self-control and good judgment. Here are some ways you can do that. And the more you plan in advance how you will deal with hurtful things online, the easier it will be when they happen.

Be your own filter: use the one between your ears

You can think before you type. And think again before you click "send." Read what you wrote. Does it really say what you wanted it to say? Can it be misunderstood? Are you sending it to the right address? Are you sure? Will you regret sending it? Maybe? If there is any question, don't send it. And give yourself as much time as you can. Walk away from the computer. Listen to some music. Do yoga, or watch tv. Shoot a few hoops. Call a friend. Make a snack or take a walk. The space may give you the time to exercise better judgment.

Write it but don't ever send it

Set up a file on your computer. A kinda "brain dump" journal, where you can save things you wish you could say, but know you shouldn't. Sometimes just writing them down is enough to make you feel better. You can always go back and read what you wrote later and see how you feel about it. Most of the time you will probably be happy you never sent it. Sometimes you may forget what made you angry to begin with.

Just make sure that if you are going to keep these mean things on your computer, you keep them private. Use a password to protect them, or encrypt them. And if you are saying mean things about people in your family you may not want to keep them on your computer at all. Never let anyone else read them, even your best friend. Especially your best friend! (Best friends get into fights all the time and share each other's secrets when they do!) And make sure you keep your password private.

And when you don't need something in this journal anymore, delete it. And learn from what you delete. Are you relieved that you never sent it? Did writing it make you feel better? Was writing it enough?

Write it but only send it to your cyberbuddy

Sometimes just writing and saving it isn't enough. You are angry and want to share that with someone. Instead of sharing it with the person you really want to attack, find a trustworthy friend or family-member you can send it to. Work it out in advance. Make them promise that they will let you send them anything and not criticize you for what you wrote. Make them promise never to share it with anyone else and to delete it as soon as they read it.

As long as you choose the right cyberbuddy, this can help you work through the anger and frustration that made you want to send something to begin with. They can help you talk through your anger and frustration. They can be indignant with you and share your frustration. They can understand. Just make sure they don't reach out on their own, on your behalf. They have to be your sounding board.

Choose someone who is understanding and a good listener. Choose someone who keeps secrets. Choose someone who really cares about you. If you have a good relationship with your parents, you may want to choose one of them. When you choose your cyberbuddy, go over the Internet Superhero cyberbuddy agreement with them. Make sure they understand what you expect from them and can agree to it.

Sometimes just being able to send the communication to someone is enough. But be very careful not to send it to the wrong address, or the person you are writing about! Sometimes people do this by accident. So double and triple check everything before clicking send!

You can then save it in your "brain dump" journal, or delete it. Check and make sure that you haven't saved it by accident in your "sent" file. (Some do this automatically.) And if your parents are using a monitoring software (like SpectorPro or eBlaster), ask them to not save anything you send to your cyberbuddy that you mark with a "cyberbuddy only" subject line, to protect your privacy.

Write it, but wait 24 hours before sending it

Sometimes just writing it or sending it to your cyberbuddy isn't enough. Sometimes you really think you should send it. Okay. Maybe you should. But before you do, write it and save it in your 24 hour file first. That may give you enough time to calm down and look at the issue from a more rational perspective. Then, after 24 hours, if you still want to send it, go through the Internet Superhero rant checklist. If it doesn't meet everything in the checklist, revise the communication until it does, or don't send it. You may want to run it by your cyberbuddy first.

If it passes everything in the checklist, send it. Just be prepared for the consequences. It may be the beginning of a cyberwar. So, if things get out of hand, you may need help to stop it. Read the Internet Superheroes "Don't' become a victim of cyberharassment and bullying tips" and follow them carefully. And report anything that scares you or threatens you right away! To know what to do if you are victimized by cyberharassment or cyberbullying, check out "Reporting it - cyberharassment and cyberbullying."

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