A week does not go by without students and parents asking me about an Internet scam, a circulating chain mail, a digital rumor, or a wild web story. And on a fairly regular basis, someone — always a good reliable kid or a terrific and reliable parent — forwards a digital missive that initially seems somewhat innocuous, silly, or sarcastic but then unleashes a virus or malware. Sometimes for children the strange digital content causes social problems.
To learn more about the unusual stories that circulate on the web, I suggest that 21st Century parents introduce Snopes.com to family members as soon as each individual begins using online communication and digital devices. We all need to learn how to consult Snopes resources and navigate around the site for helpful information — the true and reliable info — when strange and unusual content beckons.
Snopes researchers hear about a potential scam, a chain mail, a “too-good-to-be-true” story, something scary, or some outrageous spiel, and they check it out thoroughly, contacting sources and tracing the content. Once they post an explanation on the website, the researchers continue to update it as well as add the information to a database. So when something re-circulates a year or two later, it’s easy to locate current information on the website. Read the Snopes about page.
Started by two researchers in 1995, Snopes sets the record straight on thousands of weird Word Wide Web topics. It’s received countless enthusiastic reviews, and garnered quite a few awards. You can read about different types of content that the website covers and also learn how Snopes got its name by visiting the glossary.
Even if you don’t have some questionable content at hand, do keep up to date about potential digital problems by visiting Snopes (or following it on Facebook or Twitter). The website features the “Hot 25,” covering the most common and current urban legends and scams, and the list is updated regularly. Consult the website often so your children also get into the habit of looking things up. The time spent will save family members an enormous amount of time, frustration, and maybe even some embarrassment. Read the Snopes FAQ.
Some technology experts have suggested that the Snopes website be required reading for anyone who uses the Internet. In an age when mis-information is easily spread, Snopes has grown into “one of the World Wide Web’s essential resources,” posting the real truth (not the Internet truth). It’s a user-friendly tool that helps adults — parents and educators — teach digital kids how to make better and more informed decisions about web content.