The Internet has come to play a prevalent role in the professional, personal and educational lives of most people in the Western world. Since the inception of the World Wide Web, more and more information has become accessible to all people through a few simple clicks of a mouse. The world is, literally, at the fingertips of a person connected to the Internet. The question for educators and parents remains, though, whether or not there are disadvantages to utilizing the Internet in a student's education.
Students in schools with readily available Internet access tend to overlook the traditional library and book method of research in favor of an Internet search. While it is important that a student understands how to properly search the Internet for reliable information, it is equally, if not more important, that a student know how to search a library and card catalog database for books, encyclopedias, primary source documents, cataloged magazines and newspapers, newsreels and other sources not available online. When assigning projects, it is important that a teacher require a majority of sources to be from sources other than the Internet.
The well-known Christmas story entitled, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," answered a young girl's question about the validity of the famous mythical man by appealing to her belief that if something was printed in the newspaper, then it must be true. This same faith in "printed" material is held by students today, and often spills over into a misguided faith in the accuracy of anything posted on the Internet. One of the first things children must learn about the Internet, but that many do not listen to, is that there are scores of websites and articles on the Internet that are false and inaccurate, purely opinion, or extremely biased or slanted. Younger students often do not know how to recognize a reliable website or understand when an article contains authorial bias.
Teachers and parents should insist on guiding students to reputable websites that end in suffixes such as .org, .gov, or .edu, and to avoid open forum sources of information such as Wikipedia for academic research. While it is preferable that students utilize traditional, reliable print materials in place of Internet research, they also must learn how find quality material online versus misleading information.
For younger children, the Internet can be a vast sea of largely unsuitable material. While some browsers allow a certain amount of control to filter out content such as pornography and violence not suitable for young children, it is impossible to ensure a 100 percent safe search. Avoiding absolute censorship, a non-Internet based education allows parents and educators to select books, videos and material that are pre-screened and will not subject a child to age-inappropriate material by accident.