When I started skating there was no one telling me what not to do. When I was riding horses I was much more conscious of ring safety. Being run over by a 1200 lb animal can hurt. Also, I'd been riding since I was six, I didn't have the distractions in the ring that I did in the rink. When I was standing around on the ice, I didn't have the sense of immediate danger I could be to others. Instead I was worried about my danger to myself. So here's some helpful rules for public skates for absolute beginners.
1. Be alert to what's going on around you. There's little kids going a million miles a minute, trust me, they aren't looking anywhere but where they want to go. They. Do. Not. See. You. You have to keep an eye out for them.
a. Don't skate with a hood up. I doubt any teenage boys are reading this, but this is a 14-17 year old guy issue. These are the same guys who skate with their fists in their pockets. Why? Teenage Angst? Still it's a good way to meet Dr. Expensive Dentist if you trip and oops there goes your teeth.
b. When you move into traffic, look first, then skate into it.
2. Camping out and ice hogging
Coaches do a lot of instructing using the hockey circles. Thus, out of habit, when beginners get on the ice they use the hockey circles to practice. As a courtesy to other skaters, you should moderate how long you spend on one circle. You can move around the rink practicing on different circles. Every rink always has one circle that is better than all the others so everyone wants to camp out there and hog the ice. Not much you can do about that, except move in and skate. The ice hog will usually move away, but don't worry, they'll be back. Some kids get an obsession with one particular circle and will spin there all session. That's sad. Don't be that person.
3. Parking at the boards
Every beginner has things they like to practice at the boards, it's natural. But don't park in one spot at the boards. Several things can happen: you can block traffic on publics, or you develop a dependence on the boards. Try moving around, so you get comfortable on all areas of the ice.
4. If you skate backwards either have someone spot for you, look over your shoulder and check, or only skate into clear territory. Skating around backwards but not visually clearing the way marks you as equivalent to a crazed hockey boy. Nobody likes them--except other hockey boys.
5. Backwards spirals. Never on a crowded public session. If you can do them, you probably know this rule, but I still see this happening so it's worth mentioning.
6. If you're an absolute beginner, there will by necessity be some board grabbing to stop before you learn how to stop on your own, but at some point you'll have more speed than you have ability to stop. Please, don't skate as fast as you can then slam into the boards. When other skaters see this, they think "Is that person going to skate into me and not be able to stop?" They're not admiring your speed.
7. Don't park in center ice chatting with your friends. Center ice in most rink is reserved for lessons or skating practice (jumps and spins), or skaters working on skills. It's not a hangout for people to go to in order to avoid the traffic at the boards. Coaches will ask you to leave. Other skaters will give you dirty looks. Teenage girls will spin right at you to make you leave.
Skating at a rink is like living in a little community. If you want to be respected by other skaters it helps to play by the rules, especially when you're just learning. As an adult skater, you'll be noticed by other skaters more than the little kids. You'll stand out because you're a rarity, and as an adult you'll be a role model.