What is it?
A search engine aimed at children, which blocks certain explicit search terms, plus certain celebrity names which could lead to adult content being displayed – e.g. Pamela Anderson.
Kiddle was registered in 2014 and although it uses a Google Custom Search Bar and similar colour, layout and logo it has no connection with the tech giant.
How does it work?
Using Google’s ‘Safe Search’ filters, the results on a searched term are shown in the following order.
Results 1-3: Verified Websites Written for Children.
Websites which have been verified by Kiddle editors and are from sources that have been designed and written just for children.
Results 4-7: Verified Websites Written for All Ages
The next group are trusted sites that have again been checked by Kiddle editors but are not necessarily targeting children.
Results 8+ Filtered Websites Written for Adults
The filter from websites verified by Kiddle editors is dropped, and the reliance is on Google Safe Search on websites that are ‘famous’ and have a more sophisticated writing style.
In addition to the order of results, the other significant difference to Google’s traditional search engine is the larger child-friendly font size and large thumbnail images to help children visually understand the difference and relevance of the results to their requirements.
As children are exposed to the internet at ever younger ages and the content which is on the World Wide Web, there is a clear argument for a child-friendly and carefully monitored search engine.
The key to its success, however, will be in its uptake with Adults. As most children start off searching on their parents’ phones, tablets and laptops before getting their own devices, this is where the safer search is most important.
However with restrictions that don’t provide results including BBC News and Wikipedia for example, it soon feels like you are missing half of the story when looking into a topic.
A failing of the website is that the adverts do appear on Kiddle search results. For example, despite my company website ‘far’n’beyond’ not appearing in the approved search results (as we are not a Kiddle approved website) – a paid advert would be the only result to appear on the page – undermining some of the restrictions.
While it did perform for ‘homework questions’ such was WW1, some important resources were missing in comparison with the standard Google search.
In addition – if you have to search for a search engine, it is never really going to become native. If the results then don’t provide the full colour of a story then, the internet loses some of its inherent value. If the thumbnails are odd shapes and sizes, and it doesn’t look great, it’s not going to appeal.
The biggest issue, however, is surely the enforcement of a child-friendly search engine. The information is still there – the default search on iPhones and Andriod devices is still not filtered. The kid on the bus who’s parents let him play Call of Duty aren’t going to have told him to use Kiddle, and he won’t be listening anyway.
While a positive resource – unless devices such as phones are heavily restricted to all the other resources available, children are still going to search for things they know they shouldn’t.
As a website designer and fairly techy person, I am very aware that it will be almost impossible to lock down the internet and mobile devices from a child who knows about proxy websites or can google search ways to bypass restrictions.
The focus should be on educating children on the responsible use of the internet and how to use tools such as Kiddle, YouTube Kids and other child-friendly apps while also ensuring as many reasonable restrictions are in place.
Keeping the computer in a family room, setting up kids login/user accounts, protecting your own, disabling the internet to devices at a set time, using parental controls from the internet and mobile phone providers and changing the passwords to the devices that control them are just a few of the things which can help.