Skip Navigation
MarylandToday

Produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Subscribe Now
Research

Op/Ed: Alexa, What’s a Reliable Source?

Education Researcher Studies How Children Get Answers, and Assess Their Validity, in the Information Age

By Hailey Gibbs

Girl surrounded by illustrated question marks

Photo by iStock

It’s more important than ever to become wise consumers of information—a process that starts in childhood, writes Hailey Gibbs, a doctoral research fellow in human development.

It can get tiring when kids pepper you—make that blast you—with an average of 76 questions per hour, but it’s necessary for their learning. Hailey Gibbs, a doctoral research fellow in human development at the University of Maryland, researches how children gather information, including how they assess the reliability of the answers they receive.

With the continued expansion of the internet into all facets of life, from connected appliances to smart speakers, how people get information is changing, she wrote yesterday in The Conversation. It’s more important than ever, Gibbs says, to become wise consumers of information—a process that starts in childhood.

Until the 1990s, people seeking answers to questions like “What do you call a scientist who studies insects?” or “How does the radiator in a car work?” would turn to textbooks, manuals and encyclopedias. In nearly all cases, professionals had vetted and edited those resources before they became available to the public.

Now, people feel freer to make up their own minds about what they read, and, because there are so many, more than occasionally conflicting, sources of information, people sometimes feel empowered to dismiss evidence they should actually accept.

What’s more, anyone, including children, can do a Google search or ask Siri or Alexa their question. Within an instant, they get access to hundreds, thousands or even millions of answers. What they don’t get is a guarantee that the responses are accurate.

Read the rest at The Conversation.

Topics:

Research

Schools & Departments:

College of Education

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.