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The Girl Scouts and Their Netiquette Pledge

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For the past 100 years, the Girl Scouts of America have embraced their "scout's honor." This week, March 12-16, 2012 has been declared "Girl Scouts Week" in honor of their centennial celebration. Today's Girl Scouts have evolved into more than just selling cookies and collecting badges.

The Wall Street Journal reports that 50 million girls have worn the Girl Scout uniform during the past 100 years. Now, every Girl Scout must sign an Internet Safety Pledge promising they will practice good online netiquette at all times when on the Internet.

The Pledge, developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, was designed to protect our youth. It requires that each Girl Scout agree on how much time they will spend on the Internet with their parents or guardians, as well as decide on which sites they are allowed to use. Besides promising not to use bad language online, some key points in the online safety pledge states that each Girl Scout accept the following rules of netiquette:

1. I won't spam others.
2. I will not bully, nor will I tolerate bullying.
3. I will always follow the rules of Internet sites, including those based on age of use, parental approval and knowledge, and public laws.
4. I will never agree to get together with someone I "meet" online without first checking with my parents or guardians.
5. I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents or guardians.

While these rules should not be limited to Girl Scouts members, it's important for parents everywhere to make sure they know how their children are spending time online, using their mobile phones, and spending time on Facebook or other social networking sites. Children could be posting comments or photos that could damage their reputation to the point of not graduating high school, being declined in a college application, or even put their lives in danger.

A recent Harlequin Romance Survey showed that 43 percent of women 18+ were comfortable in sending sexting messages to boys with 27 percent having sent nude photos via emails or text messages. This disturbs me and would be in violation of the GSUSA Online Safety Pledge.

Children and parents should spend time talking about what rules of netiquette they should practice before logging on to their computers. If any suspicious activities are noticed, children should report it to their parents right away so the appropriate action can be taken.

At this time, I'd like to congratulate the Girls Scouts of America on their 100th anniversary and encourage everyone to support your local troop during their cookie drive. I've already bought my box of Thin Mints.

Julie Spira is a netiquette and cyber-relations expert and the author of The Rules of Netiquette: How to Mind Your Manners on the Web. Visit her at netiquetteexpert.com and follow @JulieSpira on Twitter and on Facebook.com/rulesofnetiquette.