Wikipedia is "the encyclopedia that anyone can edit", but there are some rules. There are no age restrictions for editing Wikipedia or writing new articles; the most important thing is the quality of what you write, the changes you make to what other people have written, and the way you work together with other editors. Most likely you'll need some basic advice, and that's what we hope to give you here. Read on for links to other important pieces of information that are necessary for understanding Wikipedia.
Parents, guardians, teachers, and other adults may benefit from reading this page as well as Wikipedia:Advice for parents. There is also a development area at Wikipedia:Child protection. Read more about privacy, confidentiality and discretion on Wikipedia.
Your safety and security matters
- Be careful with what you write: Never post your address, and don't use your real name for your username. When choosing a username, use a pseudonym or a username that doesn't imply your name, age, or location. People can use personal info to find out who you really are, especially if you have used the same information or username on other web sites. Don't start editing your school's page - it's a dead giveaway that you probably go there!
- Do not write articles about yourself – if you are a really important person, someone else will probably write an article about you.
- If you posted your own information by mistake, ask an administrator to remove it for you, or you can request it to be oversighted, which hides it even from administrators. Even if you don't ask, an administrator or other editor may delete it if we know that you are very young. Please don't be upset, as this will be done to keep you safe.
Photos of yourself, your friends, or your family
- Don't post pictures of yourself, your friends, or your family on your user page or your talk page. People can use this info to find out who you really are, especially if you have used the same information on other web sites.
- Don't post photos of yourself, your friends, or your family anywhere else on Wikipedia. People can also use this info to find out who you really are. While you may really like your picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, readers just want to see the Eiffel Tower.
- Don't mention when you, your friends, or your family are in a photo. Protect your, your friends', and your family's anonymity. Sometimes (very rarely) you may find photos of yourself, your friends, or your family on Wikipedia. Do not edit Wikipedia or your user page to say that you or they are in this or that photo.
- Do tell your friends, your parents or others you know in private when you see them in pictures. (so by talking to each other, by letter, by email, or in another way so that no one else can hear or read about it).
- When you have an account, always log in and use it when you edit.
- Passwords: Never tell your password to anyone.
- Account sharing: Don't let your family or friends use your account. If they do something wrong, you'll get blamed for it.
- Log out: Every time you leave the computer, especially if it is a shared computer.
- Multiple accounts: Don't use more than one account unless you have a good reason.
Wikipedia is a community effort. There are plenty of other editors ready to help you.
- For general help. If you need to know how to do something, see the Wikipedia:Teahouse page to get some help from a more experienced user.
- Urgent help. If you need to speak to an experienced editor or administrator who is currently online, use this tool.
- Help with personal information. If you have already posted personal information and you want it to get removed, go to Wikipedia:Requests for oversight and follow the instructions there.
How can you contribute to Wikipedia?
Pretty much just like anyone else – mostly by improving existing articles and writing new ones. After your first few edits, you'll probably get welcomed by another editor on your talk page listing the "Five Pillars of Wikipedia" – they are the most important things to know.
- If you write a new article that really belongs here, you have made our encyclopedia better, which is why we are all here. Many new articles are deleted because people don't know what should and should not be in an encyclopedia, and the place to find out is at What Wikipedia is not. If your work gets deleted, please don't be disappointed or take it personally: many of our best editors have had some of their articles deleted.
- Help clean up. Because it's easy to edit the encyclopedia, some people think it's funny to do silly things to it. We don't think it's funny, and we call it vandalism. Vandalism is taken very seriously here and you may no longer be trusted to edit for it. If you see something that is obviously very silly or rude and shouldn't be here, you can go ahead and remove it. When you get more used to editing, you can join the discussions about articles and the way Wikipedia is run.
- Take photos. Many articles look better if they are illustrated. You can upload photos or create other suitable images but don't forget that you can't just use any photos or images – they are almost always protected by copyright laws that stop them being used just about anywhere. You can learn all about that at Wikipedia image use policy. Even if you upload your own images, they may be deleted if you haven't checked the right permission in the list on the image upload page. Images from the Internet are almost always unsuitable.
- Wikipedia isn't like Facebook or Twitter. Your user page isn't a place to draw attention to yourself from the world outside Wikipedia. It's a place we give you where other Wikipedians can find out a little bit about you and what you do here. Improving the encyclopedia is the only task here so it isn't really for hanging out with friends or for playing games. Try things out in your sandbox to learn how "Wiki-coding" works without making a mess of article pages.
- Have fun. Do what you enjoy and what you are good at. All of us, of whatever age, work on Wikipedia because we like spending our free time doing it, kind of like a hobby. So if you enjoy finding spelling mistakes and fixing them, do that; if you like removing links that don't work, do it; if you enjoy removing vandal edits and reporting repeat vandals to the administrators, do that. If you enjoy spending some time in the library to find material to add to an article, do that.
Working on articles
Wikipedia has many policies for articles. These are especially important:
- Biographies. Encyclopedias have many articles about people. Some are about dead people and some are about people who are still very much alive. We have to be extremely careful of what we write about living people, and the page at biographies of living persons will tell you all about it. Things about people must be supported by reliable sources – we need proof, we can't just say anything about them. If it's true, because it was written in an important newspaper or in a reputable book, or it was discussed at length on TV, you can tell us that it was by citing a source, and the information can stay in the article. Wrong information could be read by thousands of people and could damage a person's reputation, and that could create a lot of serious trouble. Some private information is not interesting even if it is true – there's not much point in mentioning the names of people's children or their dogs, or what they have for breakfast. If you're not sure if something should be included, discuss it with another editor first. How to quote information in articles is explained at Reliable sources and Citing sources. Even though you might think you and your family are notable, still do not write a biography about yourself!
- Notability. All articles must be about subjects that are important enough. We call this notability. If the subject is not notable, its article may get deleted by an administrator – and sometimes rather quickly! For example, we have a lot of articles about bands. The Beatles were a very famous and important band because their songs left their mark on society forever, but the band that practices in your neighbor's garage is not likely to be ready for a Wikipedia article for a long time, even if they played at the school prom.
- Some parts of the encyclopedia may be unsuitable for young people. Wikipedia is not censored and we have much material that your parents may not want you to work on, so please discuss your Wikipedia work with a responsible adult.
- Copying stuff from other places. We call this plagiarism. Like using other people's photos, the use of stuff that other people wrote somewhere else is not allowed, even if you rewrite it but it still looks a bit like the original. Again like photos, it's covered by copyright laws and will be quickly deleted if we don't have very special permission to use it. It's like copying your friend's homework.
- Language. Wikipedia is used by millions of people. Many of them are top business people, politicians, or university professors. The text you write in articles must be very formal. It can't be the kind of prose you see in your favorite magazine or blog. Think of it as the language in your school textbooks. Most contractions should be avoided, unless it is a quotation. For example, change "isn't" to "is not." Do not worry too much though, because another user will probably edit out the rough edges for you.
Working with other editors
Most articles, even the ones you wrote yourself, end up getting expanded and improved by other editors. Working together is a good way to develop an encyclopedia. The other editors are doing their best too, and it's good to get along well with them. Don't yell at people if you don't like what they changed or added; just discuss it nicely on a talk page.
- Be polite and discuss with other editors. Editors must be polite and must not call each other names. When problems arise, discuss them and try to work them out calmly. Don't keep changing the article back-and-forth (we call that an edit war) or make snarky comments in edit summaries. There are plenty of ways for asking for help when things could get out of hand. So be very careful how you address people on talk pages – you never know who they might really be! It might be someone who shares the same kind of humor you have, but also someone who finds it rude to be addressed in a very informal or colloquial way. They might be your age, younger or much older.
- Take advice. If someone points out a mistake you made, thank them for telling you and don't take it badly. If someone is concerned about an edit you made, explain why you did it. We have all learned from the comments and criticisms that we hear from each other every day.
- Warnings. If you receive a warning message, think carefully about what it says. You may have done something wrong. If the warning is correct, avoid making the same mistake again. If you think the warning is wrong, politely discuss it with the person who warned you or ask another editor for their opinion.
- Problems. If someone is rude to you, and they don't stop when you ask them to, don't be rude back – it really won't help the situation. Either ask an administrator for help or report the situation to a noticeboard.
- Respect other editors' experience. Sometimes another editor may know more than you do about a topic. Your contributions are just as valuable as everyone else's, but another editor working on the article might be one of the world's leading experts on that topic! Just as you want to be respected for who you are and what you contribute, you also must be ready to respect everyone else.
- Your reputation. Most editors will not judge you by your age, even if they know it, but they will judge you by your maturity as it reflects in your work. There is nothing wrong with having a good time when working on Wikipedia, but most of the time it will pay to be serious. Over time, you will develop a reputation for the quality of your work, and the way you interact with others. You will want to make sure your reputation is a good one.
- Your signature. You may create a custom signature, but remember that it should follow the advice at Wikipedia:Signatures; it should be easy for others to read and say, and have a link to your talk page. It shouldn't have excess markup, fonts, and colors.
Many topics have a Wikipedia project or "WikiProject" page. A WikiProject is a group of editors who share the same interest in a subject, and they've got together to keep an eye on the articles and improve them. For example, you may be writing or editing an article about your school (did we guess right?). If you are, do check out the Wikipedia Schools Project; it will give you a good idea of how projects work, and there's lots of advice on how to make really good school articles. Don't hesitate to join the project of your favorite subject; it's one of the first places you can get help and advice on adding your content. But do be aware that writing about your own school could identify you, especially as other staff and students are bound to look at it - so consider carefully whether doing this is actually a good idea.
Recognition for your contributions
There are lots of ways that Wikipedians recognize each other's good work.
- Articles are assessed based on trust that experienced editors will provide their honest opinions in evaluating another editor's work. Many articles start as short 'stubs', and some are reviewed and become Good Articles. Some even become Featured Articles, meaning that they are among the best articles in all of Wikipedia. A new or expanded article with an interesting fact may be listed in the Did you know? section of the main page.
- Winning awards. Feel free to participate in selecting Wikipedia's best work, and to help to create it. But remember: Wikipedia is about working together to create an encyclopedia while having fun – not about winning awards. If you create an article that becomes a DYK or GA or even a featured article, you should be proud. But some people spend a little too much time worrying about how many awards they have.
- Barnstars. You might be given a "barnstar" in recognition of some especially fine contributions you made to some articles, or for some special clean-up work you did. "Trading" barnstars, such as "I'll give you one if you give me one", is not a good idea. Barnstars should not be handed out lightly; they are a recognition of achievement, like getting a prize at school.
- WikiLove can be used slightly more freely to give each other a big hug for being nice and helpful.
Administrators are users who can use special tools that help keep Wikipedia running well. They can use these tools because they are trusted by other editors, but this does not make them better or more important than anybody else. It's like being entrusted with a janitor's bunch of keys, especially the key to the cupboard where the mops and buckets are kept, and then going around cleaning up the mess others have left. Sometimes it means locking the doors to stop people coming back to make a bigger mess, and occasionally even preventing users from editing.
- Not yet. You probably won't be ready for the keys for some time. By the time you are ready, your work will probably have been noticed by experienced editors, who will suggest the idea of nominating you, so do read Administration is not for new users.
You can enter different mentorship programs. Wikipedia:Adopt-a-user is where you can seek an adopter to be your mentor, though for quick and friendly answers to simple questions it is better to ask the Teahouse.
Some people think our younger editors do not have the maturity, knowledge, skills, or attitudes needed to work on Wikipedia. Our young editors prove them wrong every day.