Web surf with care to ride best information waves

November 01, 2002|by LYNN F. LITTLE

How many times have you read some information and wondered if it is true? You read an item and it sounds too good to be true. How can you make sure the information is correct?

On the Internet, you can tell what type of agency published the document by the address. Uniform Resource Locator (URL) creates the address. A URL will have one of the following items in the address:

.com - commercial

.edu - educational institutions

.gov - governmental agencies

.mil - military organizations

.net - network

.org - non-profit agencies

Governmental agencies are a reliable source. Educational institutions give correct information. Commercial sites are in the business to sell or promote a product. Network sites require the user to evaluate each site. Look at the information, and answer these questions:


Is there author and resource information?

Does the agency provide unbiased information?

What is the intent of the material?

Is the information organized, logical, and does it use good grammar?

Is the material timely?

Keep in mind there are no web cops. Anyone can put information on the Internet. The web is like a virtual library at your keyboard.

You need to be critical of what you read. Check to see how current the information is. Using the web, you can find information. You can evaluate information. You can process information. Use it to make decisions in your life.

On commercial Web sites, look for a privacy policy. Check your questions about accuracy, too. What are your access, security and control of personal information? Check to see if a company sells your name and information to third parties.

If you have small children at home, set rules about going online. You can use filters to control off-limit sites to your child. Filters are not foolproof, but they help. Explain to your children the contrast between commercial and entertainment sites. Help your children understand that a cartoon is not real.

Readers need to assess all information. Look at the source. Is it proper? Use other personal criteria for value. If you find information that is "too good to be true," it probably is.

Never use information that you cannot prove. Like your eyes, you need to filter information. Question it and trust your instincts.

Lynn F. Little is the family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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