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children on a computer

How to make Google searches child-friendly

children on a computer

How to make Google searches child-friendly

Anyone who uses the internet has probably, at some point, stumbled upon something they didn’t really want to see. This might have been because they were hanging around in dubious areas of the internet, or it might have happened quite innocently.

There are people who deliberately tag inappropriate images in an inaccurate way, hoping unsuspecting internet users will be subjected to them while looking for something perfectly normal. Others post links on forums promising breaking news, special offers or suchlike, but these links actually lead to shock sites or some kind of unsavoury content.

Clearly, this is very funny to the perpetrators, but it does lead us to browse the web with some trepidation. Parents in particular often have justifiable concerns about what their children are seeing online, and it’s a difficult matter for them to set ground rules on, because most parents are of an age where they weren’t given much internet guidance themselves. Unlike with matters like feeding, playing with and disciplining their children, parents of today can’t really approach their own parents for advice on how to manage kids’ internet usage.

These fears led to Kiddle being launched last year. Powered by Google, though not affiliated with the California search giant, Kiddle is a search engine designed specifically to be used by children. For any search made by the user, the algorithms filter out any content young internet users shouldn’t be seeing and prioritise pages built with kids in mind.

I gave it a try, and the first point that struck me is that the results are laid out in a great way for kids to understand and select them, with large images accompanying each one. The text is big and chunky, and the cartoony banner at the top makes for a fun and visually appealing layout.

A search for the word ‘cat’ brings up a range of results that should please infant cyber-geeks, with several of them based around the popular educational cartoon ‘Peg + Cat’. Others direct us to feline-related crafts, personality quizzes and a page from the Simple English Wikipedia – a version of the online encyclopaedia designed for those with a younger reading level.

Kiddle always errs on the side of caution, which has led to some criticism for its blocking for LGBT sites, but it seems a well thought out and cleverly designed alternative to Google, Bing and Yahoo! for the rookie searcher.

John Murray

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