For homework and home entertainment, recipes and reviews, music and messages, children seem to use the Internet more every day. Unfortunately, the are many pages that are Inappropriate For A Younger Audience, such as those with a sexual content, pornographic pictures and videos, gratuitous violence, and interactive gambling.
One way to avoid these sites is by using Children’s Search Engines. These dedicated search engines weed out inappropriate content and only offer results that are deemed socially acceptable for a minor to view. But how useful are children’s search engines? As it turns out, very!
Popular Search Engines for Children
A variety of children’s search engines exist on the Web today, each with its own unique way of filtering out questionable content. Ask Kids (www.askkids.com) is a sister site of the adult search engine Ask Jeeves and allows children to ask fully phrased questions such as “How high is the Empire State Building?” just as they would when asking a teacher or tutor.
Yahooligans (www.yahooligans.com) is a sister site to Yahoo and is the web’s oldest directory for children, having gone live back in 1996. This search engine specifies that its target audience is children aged between 7 and 12 years and will only display results hand picked from its own fully vetted listings. KidsClick! (www.kidsclick.org) was designed as a mega-directory of about 5,000 sites selected by librarians as useful to and appropriate for a younger audience.
Other search engines that cater to a child audience include Cybersleuth Kids (www.cybersleuth-kids.com) and FactMonster (www.factmonster.com).
Children and Adult Search Engines
Of course, with Google now used as a verb, and hours spent watching adults and older siblings on the web, children will also be aware that there are a variety of other ways to search for sites. Thankfully many adult search engines have filtering options that make them safer for children’s use, though parents should remember that these search engines find results by trawling the web so there is no vetting done by humans. However, by setting filter limits, parents themselves can narrow the parameters by which results are returned.
For example, Google allows Safe Search Filtering that can be accessed by selecting ‘Preferences’ from its homepage. MSN’s Safe Search Filtering is accessed via the Settings page, and Yahoo’s through the Search Preferences page. Alta Vista’s filter can be found on the Family Filter Setup page, and Lycos’ on the Advanced Search Filters page. The best filter, however, remains a parent’s own good judgment.
Search engines for kids are designed to limit the results returned from a child’s query, so necessarily they will not offer as much information as a search done from an adult or unrestricted search engine. However, the results returned by children’s search engines do not contain inappropriate material and so can be used by children without much worry.
If a parent feels that children’s search engines are not netting as much information as they would like, another option is to install filtering software such as Net Nanny or Cyber Patrol to limit the inappropriate content that is accessible from the results generated by a search engine. However, neither children’s search engines nor filtering software should be used as a substitute for adult supervision. The only truly safe way for children to surf the net is to do so with an adult present.