In an age when everyone can author or share information to a mass audience almost instantly, it is more critical than ever to develop and sharpen our ability to discern the credible from the implausible things we see online. This is true for students as well as adults.
There are many purveyors of false or biased information on the Internet – a company seductively advertising the effectiveness of its weight loss product, a politically-motivated organization hoping to persuade you to vote for their cause, a hacker attempting to fool you into clicking on something that infects your computer with malicious software.
Thankfully, among the mounds of information we find online, there is also the credible and the safe. It’s a good habit to have and teach others how to figure out which is which. I believe the skill to do this is made up of 2 basic things: information literacy and information security.
According to the Association of College and Research Libraries, information literacy is “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.” It is an important part of a larger set of digital literacy skills, since many students turn to online sources for research to support their schoolwork.
Here are is a list of questions to ask before relying on any website or information you find online, from the great team at the Center on Media and Child Health:
Your child will encounter unreliable sites, but with your ongoing guidance, he will be able to determine whether information can add value to his research reports, important health questions, and every-day decisions.
For more on this topic from the Center on Media and Child Health, go to their September newsletter at http://www.cmch.tv/DOCUMENTS/MHM_Sept12.pdf
Scams, spam, and malicious links are another type of misleading, criminally-motivated information that young people should learn to recognize and avoid. Cybercriminals use search engines, social networks, and even online ads to trick people into downloading or clicking something that in the end installs a piece of software to spy on you, steal personal information and files, or hijack your computer so it can be used to do some other crime. In a previous post called “How to Teach Kids to Steer Clear of Cybercrime”, I go into greater detail on ways criminals might use these tactics.
Here are just a few steps (a subset from that same post) you can take and teach kids about keeping their information safe online:
Respecting the Credible, Legitimate Content Online
In addition to practicing how to dodge the questionable information online, remember and remind kids to teach the information they do find with respect. If you use it in your research paper, never claim it as your own original work. Give credit to the original author or source. Plagiarism is theft and is a serious offense. It is not tolerated in academics or any setting for that matter.
Below are more resources and tips to familiarlize yourself with Information Literacy and Security:
What is Copyright? from Copyrightkids.org
The Center on Media and Child Health – www.cmch.tv
How to Teach Kids to Steer Clear of Cybercrime – from Internet Safety for Kids and Families @ TrendMicro
Staying Safe on Social Networks – security tips from Trend Micro
Lynette Owens is Director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families (ISKF) program. As a pro-technology parent and Internet safety advocate, Lynette spends most of her time raising awareness and educating the public about the safe and responsible use of the Internet, recruiting fellow employee volunteers to get involved around the world, or volunteering her own time in her community. For more on Lynette see: http://internetsafety.trendmicro.com/our-bloggers/
Or follow Lynette on Twitter @lynettetowens