Understanding the Internet Culture

It is no longer necessary to have extensive technical knowledge to use modern computers or the Internet — but there IS something else that we DO need to understand. We need to understand the environment — or culture — of the Internet.

Before traveling to a distant and foreign land it would be wise to learn a little bit about the language, history, culture, and customs of the people. Otherwise you risk offending the locals or even putting yourself, unknowingly, into a dangerous situation.

So what is it that we and our children need to know about the culture of the Internet? Here are somethings to keep in mind:


Netiquette, short for ‘Internet etiquette’, is a group of loosely defined rules of online social behavior. If you knowingly or unknowingly break one of these rules you will likely annoy or even offend other Internet users. Here are some of the rules to keep in mind:

  • DO NOT USE ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME! The use of all capital letters is considered shouting and should be reserved for the very few times (hopefully) that you actually want to scream at someone.
  • Don’t be a spammer. You are probably not sending out millions of emails everyday peddling products of a questionable nature– however, if you are a little too quick to forward emails, or you are posting the same update on multiple social networks, or you are incessantly posting links that support your political view, then you are in fact a spammer.
  • Don’t be a troll. Remember that it is NOT your personal mission to seek out and correct everything that is wrong online by posting derogatory comments. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind, and will probably alienate most from your point of view.
  • Don’t feed the trolls. If you come across trolling comments PLEASE ignore the comment. If you respond back with comment all you will do is encourage them in their outrageous behavior.

There are many more rules of netiquette, however this short list should show that netiquette is really a modern iteration of The Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you have any additional rules of netiquette that you feel would be helpful, please let us know about them in the comments.

The Wild Wild West

The Internet has been compared to the old days of the wild, wild, west in the United States. Very few laws and no sheriff in town to enforce the few laws that do exist! The Internet could also be described as the Biblical book of Judges described the Nation of Israel — “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Needless to say such an environment is a dangerous environment. If we fail to set limits and/or we exercise discretion in all that we do online, we will eventually be caught in the digital quicksand and drawn under.

Here are a few suggested rules of conduct for you and your family to avoid the more dangerous side of the online world.

  • Oh be careful little mouse what you click — a popup window claims that you just won something? Seems too good to be true? Then listen to your inner warning system and don’t click it.
  • Oh be careful little keyboard what you type — This can be applied in many difference ways, so here are a few examples of when you must be extra cautious. Be very careful when you are typing a web address into your browser’s address bar. Many questionable and dangerous websites have been set up with web address very similar to the addresses of legitimate websites. You should also exercise extreme caution when prompted to enter personal information… do you really want to give away your personal information for a few coupons? Also we should teach our young children to never give out their real name or other personal information.
  • Oh be careful little monitor what you see — when questionable or outright inappropriate pictures appear on a webpage, leave the website immediately. Don’t fall prey to the temptation and linger on the site. Remember the Scriptures tell us to flee ~RUN~ from sexual immorality. 1 Corinthians 6:18Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)
  • Oh be careful little camera what you photograph — Once a picture has been uploaded to the Internet it is virtually impossible to “take it back.” Sure you can probably go back and delete it, but you will never know if someone copied the picture before you deleted it. Always think twice before uploading a picture.
  • Because the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little computer what you do!
Scott Thomson


  1. Barefoot Hippie Girl

    very good guidelines. It is also good to remember that there is actual flesh and blood people with whom you are interacting. It is not just technology and a computer screen. Ask yourself how this person would feel if you did/said this to their face, in person. And discretion in posting is always a good idea.


    • Avatar

      Excellent point! I have caught myself “saying” things behind the protection of a monitor and keyboard that I would never say in person. We can easily lose sight of the real damage that online comments can make in our relationships. Even a seemingly innocent comment can be problematic as context is often lost via the internet.


  2. Avatar

    Good advice, Scott. I would add this: limit your engagement. It is not necessary to comment on everything you read. It is safer and more worthwhile to leave tracks only in places where you trust those you are engaging or when something really important is at stake. A comment made rashly cannot always be retracted, even if you are able to delete it later.

    Internet disagreements are much uglier than real-life disagreements, much longer-lived, much more likely to spread and much harder to finish when you decide you don’t like the tone they have taken. People who feel anonymous and can’t see their audience are free to be much nastier than they would ever be in a discussion face to face.


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