A new child-friendly search engine has emerged and the internet is going wild. Many are touting it “Google for kids” and say it long overdue. Twitter is awash with excitement. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Even with strict parental supervision and stringent filters, it’s all too easy for kids to stumble upon something they shouldn’t on Google. This is where Kiddle comes in. It’s essentially a search engine that limits results to kid-appropriate sites. This doesn’t just mean blocking explicit content either: the Google-powered search engine has been designed to favour sites specifically aimed at children. For example, searching for “diet” brings up information about the eating habits of penguins and earthworms, with seemingly no mention of BMIs or weightloss solutions.
Results are divided into three sections: handpicked sites written specifically for kids, trusted sites that are not written specifically for kids but are simple enough to understand, and adult sites that contain appropriate content. The site uses big, clear fonts and larger thumbnails than are typically seen on Google and other search engines, making it more appealing to children.
Another nice feature of Kiddle is that certain words are blocked. If your child searches for things like “penis” or “Pamela Anderson” on Kiddle, they will get the fun robot visual and the message, “Oops, looks like your query contained some bad words. Please try again!”
The flip side of this is that seemingly harmless words may be banned if they are deemed to have suggestive undertones. For example, while the site allows users to look up elephant toes, it draws the line at researching the toes of camels. Searching for “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat” won’t return any results either. Strangely, nor will searching for “Hairy Maclary”.
More controversial is the blocking of some LGBT terms and phrases including “gay”. For what it’s worth, the site does attempt to explain its reasoning with a unique message in place of the usual “this is a bad word”. Nevertheless, we imagine this would still be a bit of a slap in the face to gay parents.
As with any net nanny or search engine filter, it’s inevitable that a few inappropriate images and articles will slip through the nets. Our advice is to use Kiddle with your kids. At the very least, you should ensure connected devices are always used in communal areas where you can keep tabs on what’s being searched. Even though one site may be safe, kids could easily click through to something else.