If you've ever been perplexed by the Internet's seemingly unlimited amount of information, you can bet your child is, too. In fact, the Web was created primarily for adults, says Joyce Kasman Valenza, the librarian at Springfield Township High School in Erdenheim, PA, and a former tech columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. So whether your child is reporting on the Civil War or the current one in Iraq, how can you help her find the right stuff online and make sure she doesn't just cut and paste it into her paper?
The first challenge is finding the right online resources. Although many think Google is the best search engine, it may not be the right starting spot for kids. "In a Google search, the best result may appear on page 20," says Valenza, "and your child may never get to it." But if she searches a specialized subscription database or a kid-friendly space (see "Click Here!"), she may find what she needs faster. School and public libraries offer students access to many databases, often designed for kids age by age.
With a good search tool, your child can type in "U.S. Civil War" and get a list of relevant links to a variety of media-books, magazine articles, other websites, downloadable video. This allows her to explore the topic in different ways through a variety of resources and maximize research time.
Since anyone can create an Internet site, assessing a source's validity is crucial. Sites of academic institutions and journals (typically .edu), government (.gov) and many nonprofits (.org), such as the American Heart Association, are often worth checking. But sites may have a narrow viewpoint. So if the topic is a controversial one, like global warming, your student should use multiple resources to get the big picture. "Help her evaluate by looking together at her bibliography," Valenza advises. "Do the sources seem valid to you? …