A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that wikiHow is a reference site for various subjects. It contains some material parents may find objectionable, such as articles on alcohol, drugs, and smoking. Users can discover articles about fighting, which could suggest vigilantism. There are advice articles about sexual content, as well as the possibility that kids could potentially be exposed to Google ads for sexually explicit sites. But kids can register and avoid seeing ads, and the site offers a significant amount of acceptable content, including fun projects they can undertake. Kids as young as 13 are allowed to sign up, but the site provides no parental controls.
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What's it about?
Users contribute how-to guides, which are listed on WIKIHOW under categories such as arts and entertainment, cars and other vehicles, family life, and health. Many contain a list of references, responses to user questions, and other elements. Users can also edit any of the guides to fix mistakes or add information, and they can submit requests for guides on certain topics. The site says all content changes are examined by volunteers; items with a green checkmark have been reviewed by subject matter experts, such as a lawyer or doctor.
Is it any good?
Users may benefit from reading a number of the how-to guides on this site, but parents should beware because some of the info and articles can have iffy content. Users of wikiHow can quickly learn to create a time capsule, for example, or make no-bake breakfast cookies, or get traveling tips. Some items feature clearly written instructions and visuals, and users can post questions, if they have any, to obtain more information.
wikiHow's content poses a couple of concerns, though. Kids can easily come across guides on topics that aren't appropriate for younger (and possibly some older) viewers -- such as "How to Spice Up Your Sex Life" or "How to Get Drunk Fast." And while some items have been reviewed by licensed social workers, veterinarians, and other qualified professionals, with users able to basically edit anything, content quality can't really be guaranteed. The site says the average article has been edited by more than 20 people and reviewed by more than 15, but it's not always clear if those are legitimate staff members or experts, or just random site users. In addition, although the information in many articles comes from legit publications and organizations, some refer to more questionable sources: An article on drinking scotch, for example, links to a random person's blog about his experience imbibing the drink. Parents may want to sit down with kids before they use the site to explain why some items may not be as factual as a news article or other trusted resource -- and then surf wikiHow together to ensure kids don't stumble onto material that's strictly meant for a mature audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how wikis are, by nature, not completely reliable sources of information. How can kids know when information is trustworthy and when it is wrong? Where can they check their research? (See our tips for using Wikipedia.)
What's a polite way to express a differing thought? If you don't agree, how can you express your opinion in a respectful way?
How can kids respect free speech while using common sense?
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