As Simple as That?: Tween Credibility Assessment in a Complex Online World

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Digital literacy, Health literacy, Credibility assessment, Digital youth, Health information seeking, Information seeking behavior

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to focus on disadvantaged tweens’ (ages 11 through 13) strategies for making predictive and evaluative judgments of the credibility of health information online. More specifically, this paper identifies the features of Google search results pages and web sites that signal credibility (or lack thereof) to this population and the reasons behind their perceptions.

Design/methodology/approach: The authors employed an ethnographic approach (using various types of data collection methods) targeted to generate in-depth descriptions of tweens making predictive and evaluative judgments of credibility, focussing on the ways in which these tweens naturally assess the credibility of online information.

Findings: The research has yielded novel findings concerning the types of factors that influence disadvantaged tweens’ credibility assessment strategies, such as limited English-language vocabularies, lack of familiarity with perhaps otherwise well-known sources, and forced reliance on (and/or general preference for) non-textual modalities, such as audio and video.

Practical implications: The findings indicate a need for implementing digital literacy programs in a naturalized setting, building on tweens’ existing heuristics and thereby resulting in strategies that are simultaneously compatible with their natural inclinations within the online environment and likely to consistently lead them to accurate credibility-related judgments.

Originality/value: This study provides novel insights into how disadvantaged tweens interact with online health information in a natural context, and offers invaluable information regarding the ways in which credibility assessment processes should be facilitated within formal or informal digital literacy programs.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Documentation, v. 71, issue 3, p. 550-571