There’s often little civility in cyberspace and that needs to change, according to Amy Smit, spokeswoman for the group Character Counts in Iowa. As part of Character Counts Week, Smit is hoping Iowans will start using a little more common sense and courtesy when they’re in Internet chat rooms, social networking websites and in email.

“There seems to be a bit of a difference between the way people behave on-line and the way they behave in person,” Smit says, “so we’re calling that your e-integrity, that the way you act on-line matches up with the way you really are in person.” Many websites offer the opportunity to make comments, and Smit says you shouldn’t write anything on those sites where you wouldn’t also be willing to sign your name.

She say some people hide behind the anonymity of being on-line and not having to see someone face-to-face to interact. Smit says a study finds that every second, there are 28-million text messages sent and another 285-million emails. Smit says people need to realize that if you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, you shouldn’t say it to them on Facebook.

“The second they push the ‘send’ button, your thoughts and your actions, whether they’re eloquent or irrational, are there for the entire world to see,” Smit says. “We just want to make sure we’re taking an extra second before we hit the ‘submit’ button every day, that we’re putting out something that really represents who we are.” Smit says the Character Counts website offers tips for internet civility — at

The week celebrates the six pillars of character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Caring, Citizenship and Fairness. The annual Iowa Character Awards ceremony will be held Saturday night in West Des Moines.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City