Today is Banned Website Awareness Day and all across the country, librarians and educators are doing their part to raise awareness of how overly restrictive blocking of educational websites affects student learning. Instead of filtering out information, we need to focus our attention on educating young people how to be good Internet citizens and how to properly evaluate web sites. We need to address the topic at school or home in the form of education. How do we educate this generation of young people to be safe online, to be secure online, to protect their personal information, to understand privacy, and how that all plays out when they’re in an online space? Libraries can help. Professionals in the field of information literacy, librarians can teach online navigation and evaluation skills so that we don’t have to be afraid of the Internet, just objective.
In evaluating websites, keep these questions in mind:
1. Purpose: Why was the web page created? Is it to inform? To entertain? To sell or advertise? Is it created to influence your beliefs or change your views?
2. Sponsor / Owner: On what type of Internet provider does the page reside? Is it a government agency? A business? An educational institution? Or an individual? The ownership of a website will tell you a lot about the website’s purpose.
3. Organization and Content: How is the page organized and presented? Is it well-designed, focused?
4. Bias: What is the author’s political agenda or stance on issues?
5. Date of production or revision: When was the web page produced or revised? Are the links current?
6. Usefulness: Is the web page relevant to your research topic?
7. Authority: Who is responsible for the content on the page? Is there evident bias? How accurate is the information provided?
8. What is it?: Are you looking at a web page? A journal article? A government report? Or a blog?
9. Audience: For what type of reader is the web page designed?
10. Coverage: Does the web page cover the topic comprehensively?
11. Illustrations: Are the graphics clear, relevant and professional-looking?
12. Security: Are security and or encryption systems employed when necessary?
Any good librarian will help a student navigate and evaluate websites. And any good library should have unrestricted access to the Internet.