A mother shows her son how to use a laptop

5 tips for teaching children how to conduct online research for the first time

The world wide web can be a vast, informative and yet dangerous place. Children need to be able to navigate it when they are conducting research.

With this in mind, you may ask yourself as an educator or parent: how do we begin teaching our little ones as they work on their first research projects? Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Talk about digital citizenship. Digital citizenship is the responsible use of technology for all internet users. Common Sense Education has some quick lessons to help, broken down into grade levels. 
  2. Discuss credible sources. Just because something is published on the internet, it does not mean that it is factual. Make sure you discuss with your child or student ways to know if a source is credible. You may want to write down some of these credible sources on the board or on a handout. 
  3. Strongly suggest the use of kid-friendly search engines. Kiddle and KidRex are some examples of kid-friendly search engines. The catch is that they might still permit some sources that are not the most credible, but the ads that pop up should be more appropriate. 
  4. Have open communication. No matter how much we try to filter what our children are exposed to, they may still land on something questionable. It is better that they feel comfortable sharing these instances with you so that you can have open discussions about what they experienced. 
  5. Be very detailed with what you want. Adults may assume children know what is considered important information. However, if this is one of their first times conducting online research, this will probably not be the case. I recommend creating outlines for them to fill out, covering the specific information you want them to find. Another tip: start with easy subjects as they familiarize themselves with conducting research (i.e. animals or planets). 

What are your tips for helping kids or students work on first-time research projects? Share your ideas with us at @ArizonaEducator on Twitter or Arizona PBS KIDS on Facebook!


About the author

Marissa Will is the mother of two, Olivia (6) and Logan (4). Writing was her first passion: she’s a freelance writer and a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication alumna. Will is currently educating the future leaders of tomorrow: She has spent the past nine years educating third grade with a master’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University-Yuma.

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