Case Study 5
Searching the Web
Although the internet puts a wealth of information and media at our fingertips, it is a challenge to filter out the distracting or outright malicious content from what is of value. As adolescents begin to use the internet more independently to complete their homework and pursue their interests, they need guidance and instruction in how to use the internet productively to expand their knowledge and horizons, and in how to avoid distractions and potentially harmful material.
Parents, along with teachers and other adults, can help by accompanying their children when they conduct searches for information online and discussing how to find genuine and useful content. Consider the following anecdote:
Jonathan is very interested in sharks. He owns shark-themed books, games, and even figurines. One rainy Sunday afternoon, he asks his mother if he can watch videos of sharks on the family laptop.
His mother is wary, and she suggests that they browse together.
“So, what are you putting into the search engine?” she asks.
“‘Shark video,’ right?” responds Jonathan.
“OK, try that.”
Here are some of the suggestions on the first page of results from the search engine.
“You see, Jonathan, most of these are violent videos that a child your age shouldn’t be watching. They’re not appropriate for adults either! We don’t even know if these videos are for real. We just can’t tell. And when in doubt, it’s better not to watch them.”
“You mean that I can’t watch the videos?”
“Not these ones, that’s for sure. They’ll give you nightmares. Let’s go to the National Geographic website. Should we try that? National Geographic is a magazine that’s been around for over 100 years and specializes in great photography of nature, animals, countries, and things like that. The videos on their site are really interesting and beautiful. We won’t find any nonsense there. Here, look…”
“Whoa, OK, that looks good!”
Jonathan’s mother ensures that he understands that anything can be found on the internet, making him especially aware of the lowest-quality content. She shows him how to do a thoughtful, critical search on the internet, ensuring that he only gets verified content. Jonathan now understands that to find a result that corresponds accurately to his demand, it is necessary to consider the best route to take, and that the quickest, most direct route is not necessarily the best.