Teen perspective: Careful with that Wiki

Wikipedia has pulled more than one students ashes out of the fire, but Stephen Colbert's antics should remind students to be wary.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Soumya Srinagesh, an intern at News.com, who will enter Wellesley College this fall, offers some perspective on the Wikipedia debate. Wikipedia has been getting a solid drubbing in the media lately as being rife with defamation, lies and generally bad behavior.

Wikipedia is the reason I was able to finish my massive second-semester AP English research final project in less than 45 minutes.

As the deadline loomed, I knew there was no way I would be able to sort through thousands of Google search results or go to the library to research while simultaneously performing other vital homework completion functions like talking online, reading celebrity gossip and downloading music. So I did what any desperate, procrastinating student would do--I logged on to Wikipedia, pulled up the entries on Renaissance literature and filled in the gaps until I had a presentable product.

She notes that Wikipedia made waves when it banned Stephen Colbert from editing its pages when he urged fans to "change reality" by entering false statements on the site.

But Colbert's antics may have done the world--and by the world, I mostly mean me and my peers--a favor. Until recently, many kids in my high school, myself included, used Wikipedia without questioning the integrity of its content. Before Colbert highlighted the unreliability of the site's information, I doubt many people even realized it isn't an authoritative, credible source.

Yes, teachers and parents constantly remind students to think twice before relying on certain online sources, but it's easy for a student in a rush to forget that Wikipedia belongs in the category of unverified information rather than credible information--especially because its format is one of a traditional encyclopedia.

So please take my advice, students: Wikipedia is a great place to find out about local bands or start doing research. However, before including Wikipedia information in a term paper or using Wikipedia entries to study for exams, make sure you support your findings with more legitimate sources.

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