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Because I'm in the Leadership program at my ATA school, my Instructor asked me to think of a way to serve others in my town. I decided to pick up trash at a park near my house so that kids like me would have a clean place to play. My Mom and Dad and even my little brother helped. It was kinda gross, but I had fun. I really like helping people!
– Paxton Thomas, Yellow Belt, 9 years old


From ATA World Volume 19, Number 3 Fall 2012

As a martial artist, courtesy and respect should be second nature. “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” roll off your tongue without hesitation, and you don’t think twice about holding a door or deferring to the experience of your elders.

But what about when you step off the mat and pick up your smartphone, or sit down in front of your computer? Do your manners leave the minute you log on?

“Simply because we’re corresponding online does not mean the traditional ways of respecting one another do not apply,” says Thomas Farley (aka “Mister Manners”), a New York-based manners expert and author.

The good news? You don’t have to learn a whole new set of rules. Practicing good etiquette online isn’t that different from being respectful and courteous in the real life you’re living in the real world.

Think Before You Send, Post, or “Like”
Instant communication means our fingers often move faster than our judgment. Before hitting send, “like,” or re-tweeting something, take a minute to re-read, especially if you’re a little hot under the collar.

3rd Degree Black Belt Tiffany Ravedutti, 21, follows a self-imposed one-hour rule when it comes to communicating online, especially if something bugs her.

“If someone would say something online that I found offensive, instead of just replying quickly, I walk away,” she says. “Usually after an hour I’ve cooled down and I don’t want to say what I wanted to say anymore.”

Share Information Responsibly
“Children are growing up in a generation and in a culture where you pretty much put everything and anything out there, and it can come back to haunt you,” says Farley.

Talk with your kids about responsible sharing, what is appropriate to post online and what isn’t. And then model good behavior on your own Facebook page.

Safety First
More than just gaffes in etiquette, social media sites can pose serious risks for kids.

“It’s important for parents to be monitoring what their kids are doing on Facebook,” says Farley. “Explain to them the importance of not accepting friend requests from strangers and not over-sharing.”

Master Tina Newberry, 6th Degree Black Belt and owner of Leaders for Life Martial Arts in Champaigne, Ill., sets boundaries to protect her daughters, but if your kids have proven themselves trustworthy, she says it’s also important to show that you trust them.

“I never allow my [kids] to communicate with anyone that they don’t know,” she says. “I get the right to check their text messaging for content at any time; I don’t go overboard with that, though. I try to trust them more than I don’t trust them.”

To Err Is Human
With all the texts, emails, tweets, and posts you send out in a day, it’s inevitable that you’ll slip up. What’s important is how you handle it.

When Ravedutti was in high school, she “liked” a negative Facebook post about another friend.

“Even though I didn’t say anything bad, I was still a part of it,” she says. “It’s guilty by association.”

Once she realized her mistake, Ravedutti opted to apologize face-to- face, which Farley agrees is a good etiquette move.

“A tweeted apology is not the same as a real apology,” he says. “If you really mean it, say it in person.”

With that iPhone or BlackBerry never more than a few inches away, it can be tempting to give your device priority over conversations with real people, good times with the friends in front of you, or quality parenting moments with your kids. Brush up on these tips for pulling out your smartphone in the presence of others.

Say it to their faces.
It’s hard (and annoying) to carry on a conversation with the top of someone’s head. Give the conversation partner that’s right in front of you priority over text messages and emails, and keep the friends on your phone in your pocket or purse.

Stack it up.
“I’m a big fan of the cell phone stack concept,” says Farley. “If you’re out to dinner with friends, at the start of the dinner, you all put your phones in a pile in the middle of the table. The first person who cannot resist and picks up his or her phone also is stuck picking up the tab.”

Silent is golden.
Make it a habit to turn off or silence your phone if you’re in a setting where it might disturb or distract those around you (think movie theaters, libraries, meetings, your dojahng, and tournaments).

Forget the phone (on purpose).
If you can’t resist the temptation to tap out a text in a place where your phone could distract others, “don’t even have it on your person,” says Farley. It might feel weird to be without your device, but “you’ll be amazed you can actually get by without the phone for an hour or two.”