When it comes to kids and screens we recommend parents delay, delay, and delay. The American Academy of Pediatrics and similar organizations around the world recommend that children under two years experience no screens (even in the background). The only exception is when the screen is used to foster relationships. For Example, when mom and dad are away on a business trip, in the military or to connect with grandparents and other relatives who are far away.
We recommend that if your children are going to be online, that you, mom and dad be there with them. Explore together. Be their guide.
The following blog was written by Matt Richardson, an internet safety expert I have interviewed at Unplugged Family. We recommend you explore the search engine sites he recommends on your own and you be the filter of these sites for your kids. Are the messages in the site congruent with your values and convictions? Your children need to know that just because a site is cartoonish or “kid-friendly” does not mean it is appropriate for them.
Check out our Unplugged Family Facebook page for our interview with Matt and other experts such as neuroscientists, psychotherapists, parents, etc.
~Madlin Mangrum, Founder of UnpluggedFamily.org
In my role I am often asked by overwhelmed parents how they can possibly prevent their children from encountering inappropriate content with the vast amount of information online. While there is no substitution for parental oversight and parental supervision at all times is always strongly advised, there are free tools available that can help prevent exposure to inappropriate material.
There are many options available and from those, I selected the following examples based on popularity and reputation. Each of the tools has been tested using a variety of keywords (e.g. sex, beer, booze, boob, etc.), some of which could obviously lead to inappropriate materials, and others that are not so obvious but could yet yield questionable results. Further, not all material that could be disturbing to children would be classified as “adult” e.g. footage and images of wars and conflicts, crimes etc. It is a good idea to consistently remind children that if they encounter material online that is “gross” or “scary” that they are to stop viewing it, speak with their parents, and then block the site so it does not appear in future search results (STOP | BLOCK | TALK).
Please see the safe search tools and descriptions below and enjoy!
Safe Search Engines for Kids
This is the only one on the list that is a software download (free and easy). It is best suited for younger children (J/K to Grade 4). Of all the options it is the most secure, think of it as a fenced in playground where you have full control on what children can see and access. It features a nice set of parental controls and the interface is clean and user friendly for parents and children alike.
Kidrex is a great search tool for younger children. The built in filter is powerful, in our testing we found that it effectively screened out inappropriate material and despite trying several keywords none of them produced results. The interface is simple and “kid friendly”.
Kiddle is well suited for older children (Grade 5 to 8) as it provides a great built in filter, and yet is less restrictive than the tools for younger children and will yield more results. For example, “Beer” produced zero results in the tools for younger children, whereas in Kiddle I found results that described what Beer is made out of, and historical events involving it (e.g. Hitler’s “Beer Hall Putsch of 1923”). Great tool for those that love the functionality of Google coupled with the protection of enhanced filters. An added plus is that search results are displayed in large thumbnail format which enhances its visual appeal.
Kidzsearch is another great option for older children as it is less restrictive while still providing filter to restrict access to inappropriate material. We love the interface which features a simple search bar, coupled with short cuts to kid friendly videos, images, and even education games and programs.
Safe Search Kids is fairly similar to Kidzsearch in that it offers a simple search interface and shortcuts to educational materials. We love the short cuts it provides to resources on a variety of online safety and cyber security topics that include; online and social media safety, cyber bullying and more.
What search would be complete without Google! Of course, parents should activate “Safe Search” under search settings. Even when it is activated the filter will not be as restrictive as with the other tools so it is strongly recommended that parent supervise children when using mainstream search engines.