Google-ing It – What to Teach Your Kids About Online Research

When your kids come home with another school project to complete or essay to write, how many times do you scratch your head and realize you have no idea how to help them? It’s been a long time since our childhood schooldays, and lots of the information we learned has been lost along the way.
If your kids need help naming dinosaurs or sixteenth century kings, you might be tempted to say, “I don’t know; Just Google it.” The Internet, especially Google, is the essential tool for looking up information nowadays. But before you let your kids loose on the computer, it’s important to talk to them about online research so they’re able to find the real, accurate information they need out of the overload they’ll find.

1) The Lure of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites to find information on just about anything at all. It’s a favorite site to visit for kids in their research pursuits, but most of them don’t realize that Wikipedia is not an officially accepted source of information. While Wikipedia is incredibly useful and usually spot-on, the fact remains that it is a collaborative effort and anyone can alter a Wiki page.
You should teach your children that Wikipedia is an excellent source as a springboard to locating the information they need, but it shouldn’t be taken as Gospel. All of the information they find should be verified by other sources. The citations on the page are often a great place to do that.

2) The Rule of Three

There is lots of debate as to exactly what websites can be considered official, trusted sources. It is generally assumed that major news networks, government websites, and the websites of official organizations are usually reliable sources. There is no set standard, though, and some teachers will accept different sources as credible. A good rule to use is the rule of three. If a piece of information can be found on three separate, independent websites, there is a good chance it is true. However, it’s important to count only websites that are generally respected or authored by a credible source.

3) Using Common Sense

As long as your kids understand that anyone can publish anything to the Internet, they can start exercising common sense judgment when doing research. There are different questions they can ask themselves to determine if information they find is reliable. For example, is this information provided by a well-known organization or source? Did the author provide any citations for their information? Does the website look professional? Does the information sound right, or is it too unbelievable?

4) Back Up Support

Most importantly, let your children know that they can come to you with any questions. If they’re unsure about something they read online, you’re available to help them assess the credibility or truth of anything they read. While you might not have all the answers, you do know how to help your children find the ones they’re seeking successfully and accurately. Their proficiency with online research will only improve as they get older and with practice.

Alexandra Kelly is a school teacher and mother who has a passion for writing. To ensure her writing is professional and mistake-free she proofs her work with a grammar checker prior to letting anyone read it. When she doesn’t have time to cook for her family she turns to frozen food and all parties are satisfied.


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2 Responses to Google-ing It – What to Teach Your Kids About Online Research

  1. Kurt says:

    I “stumbled” into this page and stopped to read it based on the headline, I was deeply disappointed. I though from the headline it would give some useful information on how to “Google”, how to use the Google search engine, use keywords, special characters and the like but it did not. No it only regurgitated basic common sense that really had nothing to do with using the modern age internet resource. On a scale of 1 to 10 you get a fail.

    • Hello Kurt, I am sorry that you were disappointed, the objective of the article was a guideline on how to teach children to research online and realize that not everything on internet is not fact but should be backed by a credible source and exercise caution and common sense to what they are reading.

      However, since you expressed interest in the actual search, keywords, etc… I could write another article about how to perform the actual search and i hope you get a chance to read it when it’s done.

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