What is Kiddle?
Kiddle describes itself as a “Visual search engine for kids, powered by editors and Google safe search”. What this means is that it is largely using the Google search engine to power results, but it also has some editors controlling which sites are shown. Anybody can set up a Custom Google Search engine.
The human edited part of the search engine means that Kiddle employees have hand-picked websites to return in the search results. The results are split into three groupings: first, safe sites chosen by Kiddle editors that have been written for children; second, safe sites that although not specifically for children, are easy to understand and selected by editors; third, famous sites for adults that provide expert content – these are filtered by Google safe search.
So the first two sections (maybe two-thirds) of the sites returned are those that have been hand-picked by Kiddle.
Any search engine that promises to be child friendly should prevent any scary, unpleasant, adult or generally objectionable content from being displayed to kids.
Searching for the most popular pornographic search terms brings up a simple warning: “Oops, looks like your query contained some bad words. Please try again!”
However, this is sometimes too simplistic. We can quickly find false-positives. If a child searched for “The owl and the pussy-cat”, which is one of the most famous nursery rhymes in the world, they will be greeted with the “bad word” warning.
Local children are currently studying garden birds at school, and our most loved garden friends, the robin red breast and blue tits, are also a “bad words”.
But, maybe erring on the side of caution is a good thing if it means kids won’t see anything that is unsuitable.
What is Missing?
Because Kiddle consists of hand-picked sites, there are some major omissions. For example, the BBC’s Cbeebies website is missing – this is one of the most popular websites for kids in the UK. Searching for [cbeebies games] brings back these domains:
- www.bbc.co.uk/ (education section)
Whereas on Google, the first result is www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/games – this site really is a lot of fun for kids, and as safe as you can get.
So Kiddle appears to be a little too orientated to the American audience, which is a major oversight seeing that it claims to be a site for all children.
Another omission is the IXL website. Although a commercial educational platform, IXL is used by many children to improve their English and Maths skills.
YouTube is also nowhere in the results. YouTube is very safe for children – it is unlikely that kids will be exposed to anything that will scare them, and there is no pornographic content either. But, YouTube does offer many good videos for children, both cartoons and educational documentaries.
Children are scared by all sorts of things, so the most innocent search could bring up an unexpected result.
Kiddle is a great idea, but currently it will not appeal to many children because it simply will not provide the search results. Kids also already know Google – most children know what Google is and how it works, so if they cannot find what they want in Kiddle, they will just type Google into the browser address bar and leave Kiddle.
The best way to protect children is to educate them. Teach them to use the Internet responsibly and tell them that if they should ever see anything that scares them, they should close the browser or press the back button. At some point they will use Google, so it may be better to educate and supervise sooner rather than later.