Should I trust everything I read on the web?

The world wide web is a great platform that lets anyone share information and ideas.

When you are browsing the web, you need to think about whether the things you are viewing are reliable.

Is it content that you can trust?

Using a search engine

Search engines are a great way to find things on the web. If you search carefully you can find reliable and trustworthy information.

Keywords

Think carefully about the keywords you enter in your search. They need to be relevant. For example, to find out how hot it is on the planet Mars, you might search for the words ‘Mars’, ‘surface’ and ‘temperature’.

Think about the number of keywords that you use, too. If you use too few keywords you could get too many results and they won’t all be relevant. However, if you use too many keywords, you might get no results at all.

Filtering results

To help make your search more specific, you can use "quotation marks" around a set of words to find an exact phrase.

If you add a minus symbol (-) before a word it will exclude pages that contain that word. For example, ‘Roman emperors -Caesar’ will look for pages with ‘Roman’ and ‘emperors’ in it, but not ‘Caesar’.

An illustration of a search engine page.
If you wanted to find out how hot it is on the planet Mars, you might use a search engine to look for pages with the words, ‘Mars’, ‘surface’ and ‘temperature’.

Making sense of the results

Once you have a list of results, you need to choose which links to click on. But how can you work out which are the reliable sites?

Well, it can be tricky. You need to look at the information and then use your best judgement. Here are a few tips to know what to click on:

Top links

Usually the top links are the most relevant to your search. However it is often worth scrolling down the page because you might find something better further down. Sometimes the top links are adverts for companies who have paid to be listed at the top. They will pay for every click they get.

Domain names

You could also look at the domain name. Do you recognise the address as one that you can trust?

Addresses which end with .sch.uk, .ac.uk or .gov.uk are educational or government websites so are usually reliable.

Addresses which end with a .co.uk, .com or .org can be bought and used by anyone but this doesn't mean they are unreliable.

A girl looking at a webpage through a magnifying glass.
Addresses which end with .sch.uk or ac.uk are educational websites and usually reliable.

Evaluating content and being critical

Once you have chosen a site, always be critical of what you read.

Unlike most non-fiction books that you get from a library, many sites are not checked for accuracy.

If you have doubts about how reliable a piece of content is you can check it by looking at other sites. If they all say the same thing it is probably accurate. This is called ‘verification’.

It is also important to think about who has published a website. Why has it been written and published?

Some websites might be biased or could give only one side of an argument. These sites might present their opinion as fact.

Top tips for evaluating online content and being critical about what you read.
A boy looking through a magnifying glass at a computer screen.