The Internet provides us with a wealth of information that we can access at any time. Unfortunately, mixed in with all that information is a lot of misinformation. Because anybody can publish on the Web, it is important to evaluate Web sites yourself to determine if the information they give is reliable, accurate, and unbiased.
Children may have a hard time distinguishing between good and bad information on Web sites. Make sure your child knows some of the basic things to look for to figure out if a site is trustworthy or not.
- Check the authority of the site: This will tell you if the site is published by somebody who is an expert on the topic. Some things to look for include:
- Can you tell what organization, company or individual produced the site? Look for sites that are published by official government agencies or educational institutions (sites whose URL ends in .gov or .edu).
- Is there a way to contact the organization? You can use this contact information to verify the site's source.
- What are the qualifications of the site's author(s)? Just because the author is an expert in one area doesn't mean she's an expert in other areas.
- Check the accuracy and coverage of the site: Ask yourself:
- Are there grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors?
- Are sources given for facts and statistics?
- Does the site give comprehensive information on the topic?
- Check the objectivity of the site: Many sites are developed to put forth a particular point of view, and not all of them are up front about it. Ask yourself:
- Does the Web site have an obvious bias?
- Does the page have a lot of advertising? What is the relationship between the advertisers and the site authors?
- Does the site list its sponsors and affiliated organizations?
Check that the information on the site is current: Look for a date when the page was published or last updated. Sites that have not been recently updated could contain out-of-date information.
- Pre-screened Web directories: There are directories available on the Internet of sites that have been evaluated and approved by subject-matter experts. Some of these include the Librarian's Index to the Internet , BUBL Information Service , the WWW Virtual Library , and the Internet Public Library .
- Evaluating Information Found on the Internet (Johns Hopkins University)
- Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask (UC Berkeley)
- Information and its Counterfeits: Propaganda, Misinformation and Disinformation (Johns Hopkins University)
- Evaluating a Web Site (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)