4.12 Activity 3

Many children use the internet to help with their homework. They download images and documents to help with, and be incorporated into, the projects they are working on. We have already seen in Section 3 that copyright law applies to the internet. Children may be infringing copyright when they borrow things from the Net that other people have created.

Using the Net for educational purposes is surely a good thing though?

So how should we advise children about using information found on the internet?

Activity 3: The parent's dilemma

Assume that a friend has asked you by email how to advise her children about using information found on the internet in homework. Your task is to compose a response.

Focus on:

  1. the reliability of the information and how to check it;

  2. how to deal with the copyright issues.


1. The first thing to tell children about information on the internet is that it is not always reliable. So pretending that an essay we found on the internet about the sinking of the Titanic is our own work is not only cheating, the claims in it may also be wrong. How is anyone to check whether the information they find on the Net is reliable, then? We will look at this again in the next section of the unit, but there are some basic questions we can ask to check reliability:

  • Do the website owners have a track record of credibility?

  • Is the site well regarded by credible, reliable people and institutions?

  • Who is the site aimed at?

  • Is the site well documented, are the sources of information given, and are these sources reliable?

  • Is it a government (.gov or .gov.uk), commercial (.com or co.uk), educational (.edu or .ac.uk) or non-profit organisation (.org or .org.uk) or a personal website?

  • Is the page kept up to date?

  • Can you verify the information on the site with other reliable sources?

This links back to Activity 1, where the importance of care in observation was noted. It is important for all of us, not just children, to realise that we must observe clearly in order to understand. Blindly copying an essay about the Titanic for a homework assignment will not lead to understanding and may get the child into trouble. Thinking about the content of such an essay, including whether or not it is reliable, may help the child to change their perceptions and absorb new knowledge of an old tragedy. It may also help the child to new insights about things they already know.

2. So using the internet for homework can lead to better understanding. There would seem to be a public interest in allowing children to use the Net for education. Millions of children searching Google for images to include in their homework is potentially a large amount of copyright infringement, however. So how do we resolve the dilemma?

Is there a difference between what it is fair to do (in the public interest) and what it is legal to do? In the UK the law says that use of copyrighted works for educational purposes is ‘fair dealing’ and not an infringement of copyright.

Children can be encouraged, then, to use material from the internet for homework, but they should not usually make multiple copies or publish them on their own websites. They should also be encouraged to acknowledge the source of any material found on the internet that they include in their work.

"It is the mark of an ineperienced man not to believe in luck."

(Joseph Conrad)

4.11 The elusiveness of Lessig's concept of code

4.13 Summary and SAQs