Kiddle lets children search the web 'safely', leaves the sex talk to mom and dad

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Parents with younger children may well be concerned about the type of content their offspring could stumble across online. While it is possible to enable the Safe Search feature of Google, this is not 100 percent reliable, and more adult content can slip through the net. A new 'visual search engine for kids', Kiddle, launched this week to plug the gap.

Although nothing to do with Google, Kiddle apes the colorful logo of the famous search giant, and also relies on Google Safe Search for some of its results. The bulk of the first ten results returned by any search, however, are handpicked by editors to ensure they are safe for children and easy to read. There are also some automatic filters in place that prevent searches for 'bad words' and the like and, interestingly, treat searched for homosexuality and heterosexuality in completely different ways.

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When it comes to testing a search engine that claims to be 'safe for children' the first thing most people will do is type in a few swear words (including a check for the 'Scuthorpe problem'). True to its promise, Kiddle censors curse word searches, displaying a message that reads "Oops, looks like your query contained some bad words. Please try again!". Intriguingly, this is the same warning message that appears if you search for the word 'sex' or 'heterosexual' (other 'bad words' include 'murder', 'suicide', 'drugs').

The warning, it seems, is not triggered by the appearance of the letter s, e and x in succession, because searching for homosexual (or gay, or lesbian, for that matter) results in the appearance of a rather different message:

You have entered an LGBT related search query. Please realize that while Kiddle has nothing against the LGBT community, it's hard to guarantee the safety of all the search results for such queries. We recommend that you talk to your parent or guardian about such topics.

Make of that what you will.

Content filtering aside, Kiddle is geared towards children in a number of other ways. Search results feature large thumbnails, and a large font is used to increase legibility. The site has a simple privacy policy as well:

We don't collect any personally identifiable information, and our logs are deleted every 24 hours.

But it is undoubtedly the search result curation that will appeal to concerned parents. The results are filtered and ordered as follows:

  • Safe sites and pages written specifically for kids. Handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors. Typically, results 1-3.
  • Safe, trusted sites that are not written specifically for kids, but have content written in a simple way, easy for kids to understand. Handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors. Typically, results 4-7.
  • Safe, famous sites that are written for adults, providing expert content, but are harder for kids to understand. Filtered by Google safe search. Typically, results 8 onwards.

Kiddle is looking for more input from parents. If you find a site that has slipped through the net that you believe should be blocked, or find a word that you feel should be blocked that can be searched for, there are links at the bottom of the page that can be used to submit a keyword blocking request or a site blocking request.

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