Wikipedia:Advice for parents
Wikipedia's goal is to offer "the sum of all human knowledge" in a format which is legal to copy, modify and redistribute (copyleft, as we call it) to all, at no cost. With this aim in mind, we have grown to become one of the largest collections of information ever assembled, and enjoy a high profile as one of the most popular websites on the internet. We hope you will find huge educational value within this project; and amongst our millions of articles, you will certainly find many relevant to almost all areas of study. No encyclopedia should be the end of the line in any research, however, and we hope you'll find our articles useful road maps for further exploration across a whole range of subjects.
Wikipedia is freely editable by anyone and everyone, but this does not mean that anyone can write anything. Both inaccuracy and sheer vandalism are therefore problems that the project faces on a daily basis. However, a number of safeguards are in effect. These include insisting that editors cite reliable sources, as well as Recent Changes Patrolling for vandalism, and New Page Patrolling for recently created articles with inappropriate content.
This page and its subpages (linked pages) is intended to help parents, guardians, teachers, and other adults consider the best way to allow children they are responsible for to engage with Wikipedia safely and enjoyably. There is also a development area at Child protection. Read more about privacy, confidentiality and discretion on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is not censored, which in practice means that in relevant areas throughout the site, you will find possibly distressing content and pictures showing subjects like sexual activity or profanity in context. Such material, present in a small percentage of articles, includes hardcore pornography. It is possible to configure Wikipedia to not display images if you would like to — there are many ways to do so. Editors range widely in both age and cultural background, and as such, profanity is also prevalent in some areas. See also Wikipedia:Uncensored and Wikipedia:Offensive material.
Pages which are normally appropriate for children to use may be vandalized with rude words or content which may be offensive. Vandalism is normally noticed and removed within a few minutes, if not seconds (via the recent changes function); but sometimes it can remain unnoticed for days, and even if not, someone will have to see it before it can be removed, and this could be anyone.
A vetted selection of articles
You may also be interested in another independent project, the Schools' Wikipedia — a specific selection of about 5,500 articles from the English Wikipedia, suitable for school children, which has been checked and edited for this audience. It contains about the equivalent content of a 20-volume encyclopedia organized around school curriculum subjects, and is available online and as a free download.
Wikipedia does not engage in a "working with children" check on editors, and it is possible for any editor to communicate with any other either on the wiki, or via email if the editor has an email account registered with Wikipedia. This communication may not be monitored by other Wikipedia editors, and we strongly advise all editors not to publish private information such as full contact details. Accidental publication of personal or contact detail can often be removed by requesting oversight, a form of extreme deletion that purges material from the database.
Most communication on Wikipedia occurs in an open, public, reviewable manner (even personal "talk page" messages are readable by anybody). Note, however, that contrary to some sites directed towards youth, the staff of the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs Wikipedia) do not regularly patrol discussion pages or remove inappropriate comments; it only has volunteer administrators, who may exclude people breaching civility rules, but who will not censor conversations, even if they deal with adult topics.
Children and their parents must understand that any person, no matter how well- or ill-motivated, is free to participate in the project. While some child-focused online communities will remove members who are found/suspected of being dangerous towards children in the "real/offline" world, Wikipedia does not, as a rule, require users to disclose their identities, and hence cannot remove them according to anything that pertains to identity, including criminal or sex-offender records. A child, or anyone else, should never assume that if somebody has an account on Wikipedia, then they're safe to meet in person. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia project, not a social networking web site. Common sense must be applied where it most pertains, and in particular it must be remembered that anyone can pass themselves off as anyone on the Internet.
Wikipedia will nonetheless block the accounts of any users who appear to be using the site for inappropriate purposes, such as trying to form or legitimize relationships with children. For advice on what to do if such behavior is observed, please see Wikipedia:Child protection.
The most useful piece of advice guardians can give to younger editors is to never divulge any personally identifiable information (name, age, location, school) on Wikipedia – or anywhere else publicly available on the Internet for that matter. Some sites may have ways of restricting access to personal information; however most, including Wikipedia, do not, please see Wikipedia:Guidance for younger editors. If you suspect a minor has posted their personal information on Wikipedia please follow the process detailed at Wikipedia:Requests for oversight.
Communicating with Wikipedia:
- Contact Wikipedia
- Wikipedia:Questions — if you have further specific questions, this page advises you how best to submit them
Frequently asked questions:
- Wikipedia:Introduction, an overall introduction to the encyclopedia
- Wikipedia:FAQ/Schools, a frequently asked questions page for schools
- Wikipedia:Help, the wiki's generic help pages
The following pages are essays describing the thoughts of some Wikipedians, which have failed to gain broad acceptance as official guidelines or polices, but are in related areas: