How Do We Keep Kids Safe When Searching Online at Home?

IMG_1675Providing children with safe access to online information can be a challenge. It’s really about narrowing the scope of information returned in search results. School district filters work to keep kids from being exposed to harmful information during their searches at school. But many students are working from home now, doing research activities as part of online school assignments. It’s important for teachers to help parents and students understand the need for safe online searching options.

Definitely no perfect search engine for keeping children totally safe online exists in the cyberworld of today. Google offers a Safe Search tool that filters across websites, images, and videos. It can be locked on an individual computer. Unfortunately, even Safe Search may not filter out material unsuitable for children. There is no guarantee that the filters will catch everything.

One way to create a safe search environment is to use a search engine for kids with a safety feature.

Google Junior seeks to “provide a safe search for the learning minds of future generations!”. This search engine utilizes Google’s Safe Search tool, but the search engine is not a Google product. Rather, it’s been created by a family in Canada who want theirs, and other children, to have a safe online search environment. The privacy policy linked from the home page clear details what type of data will be collected from users and how the data will be used.

Safe Search Kids helps to remove potentially harmful material, but also encourages common sense supervision of kids by parents and teachers. Again, not a Google product, Safe Search Kids relies on Google technology. Search results display ads at the top of the list, which are clearly marked, but the ads are a bit of a drawback. The site includes a separate safe search for images, videos, and a wiki with kid-friendly articles for K-5 research projects. Safe Search Kids also includes articles for adults about promoting Internet safety and digital citizenship for kids.

Safe online searching for children is critical for teaching and learning important Web literacy skills. While Google Junior and Safe Search Kids have some helpful features, there are no guarantees. Teachers, parents, and caregivers must be vigilant with guiding children’s Web reading experiences.


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