It wasn’t that long ago that there was no Internet to rely on for information. Those of us who are considered part of Generation Z, even perhaps millennials, may express disbelief that there was a life before the Internet. It may come as a surprise to many that it has only been twenty-five years since we were introduced to the Internet. Or that prior to the invention of the Internet we were forced to crouch over books and encyclopedias, hopelessly attempting to fill pages of information from one small paragraph. The Internet did not make its appearance for public use until 1991 and most of us agree that with its arrival, the world became a much bigger place and that life post-Internet was never quite the same.

The wealth of information the Internet provides is immeasurable. With just a couple of taps of the fingers we are exposed to a steady flow of information and it is a waste not to take full advantage of such a valuable resource. However, there is a significant difference between casually using the Internet and taking full advantage of it. We could be losing precious time by messing around online without fully understanding how to effectively get the information we need from the Internet.

One area for broadening your understanding of the Internet, and just about everything else you can think of, are Massively Open Online Courses of MOOC’s. These online courses, from sites like Coursera, edX, and Udacity, offer varied content from a multitude of sources. According to Class Central, the total number of students signing up for one or more classes nearly doubled in 2015 with 35 million students attending. These classes are often offered by accredited universities and colleges from top-ranked professors offering content in nearly every area imaginable.

If your goal is to get better at using the Internet then, as it is with everything else, practice using it. Start navigating the Internet and become familiar with basics, like keyboard shortcuts. Become organized with applications like Mailstrom, which organizes your email and helps you figure out what you should save or delete, and Dropbox, where you can save your photo, documents, and videos so that if your computer breaks down or is stolen, you will still have everything saved in one place.

Whether you are a senior citizen first learning to navigate the Internet or someone frequently on the Internet who could become a little more Internet savvy, there are applications out there that you can utilize. Skillful Senior teaches basic navigational skills for those seniors who are first-time users, as well as how to exchange email and access medical information. GFCLearnFree is a free online educational website that teaches essential skills such as technology, job training, reading, and math skills. HP Learning offers tutorials and videos for learning how to use software, such as Microsoft Office and Digital Photography. Good50 is a Google powered search engine customized to be more user-friendly so that older adults, senior citizens, and school-aged children can use it.

Most of us could always become more efficient at performing searches. Whether you are searching for professional or personal reasons, performing a well-planned search with effective keywords can save time so that you can get straight to the information you need without having to scroll through a surplus of unhelpful and irrelevant information. To start, brainstorm some keyword phrases that are pertinent to your search. It is best to use multiple words that are similar to each other. This may seem like common sense but make sure the words are spelled properly so that you get accurate results. A popular method of finding results with a specific phrase is to use quotes. This way you’ll only see results with the same words in the same order. You might also want to use certain symbols with the phrase in the quotations such as the asterisk and the plus and minus signs. The asterisk is commonly used as a placeholder for unknown or wildcard terms. Use a plus sign when your search terms must appear in the search results and a minus sign to indicate that a word or phrase must be absent.

Not everything you read on the Internet is true. Credibility is a major concern. Some sources like The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN are popular because of their offline content. Others like Wikipedia are questionable. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that is written collaboratively by volunteers. The tricky thing is that anyone is allowed to write an article, as well as edit someone else’s article. Allowing anyone to edit and add additional information leaves the article open to misinformation and errors, with even vandalism being a possible issue.

Be mindful when using the Internet and always be aware that it is too easy these days for your information to fall into the wrong hands. When you consider the hundreds of millions of people using the Internet, it is not surprising that there is more than a fair share of dishonest people trying to get access to your information in any way they can. If possible, install anti-virus software so that incoming files will be scanned. Stay as far away as possible from pop-ups and be aware of email and websites that are not validated, especially if they request private personal information such as credit card numbers and social security numbers. It is also smart to use caution when conducting online banking. To protect your information, make sure to regularly change your passwords and do not make them so easy that anyone can figure out what they are. Remember to log out of your social media sites for privacy reasons.

Above all, have fun with the Internet and make good use of all the knowledge that you can acquire from it. Keep in mind that there is always new information coming in and ample opportunities to continue learning whenever you click onto the Internet.