As adults we tend to think in terms of our kids' offline and online lives as two separate things but in reality it's all one life to them.
Hopefully we have the expectation that when our kids go to see their grandparents, or they're in school or at their friend's house, that they will behave, they'll be polite and they will treat others with respect.
When kids are young and just learning how to use the computer and/or they're getting their own phone, set the ground rules. It's even a good idea to use a simple but effective tool: a contract.
They're not commonly used but they're a secret weapon. (For example, at a recent workshop, 50 elementary school parents were asked if they ever used a contract when they started letting their kids use the computer. Not one did.)
Every home with kids should consider having a contract (or Family Media Agreement!) that they sign along with their parents that establishes the expectations of how they will treat others when they're online. You can make one up but you can also download for free. Common Sense Media, for example, has a good one. They also have them for different age groups. Makes perfect common sense.
Tangled Ball's Top Ten Reasons Why Family Media Agreement's Are A Good Idea:
• It heads problems off at the pass.
• It gives you a reason to discuss expectations. (Expectations are better than "rules!")
• It gives you a way to discuss consequences if they don't meet those expectations
• It takes pressure off the parent by covering all the online safety issues at once.
• It gives one on one time with the child...and why not have fun with it? Discuss. Laugh. Heck, decorate the damn thing.
• It gives an opening to suggest that the child take you on a tour of their online world. (This is sneaky but it works. If they take you for a "tour," you won't have to guess what they're "up to" online.
• It shows you're interested in their safety.
• It helps them build good judgment online.
• It sends the signal that this is what parents do and when they become a parent, they can use the same type of tools.
• It will help you sleep better at night.
Now download, talk, take a tour, laugh, decorate, post next to computer...and then sleep like a baby.