With the Internet a vast universe of information and diversions (some good and some so so so not good!), it can be hard for adults let alone children to find information relevant to a project or assignment. In fact many parents are wary of letting their children search for anything on the internet as anything could come up in the results. And I mean anything. Searching on the internet is a matter of carefully inputting specific terms that hold the best chances for getting the information you want. The more general your terms, the more general the results. This can be handy sometimes when you do not know exactly what you want or want to obtain more specific search terms, but for the most part it makes searching very difficult. Children, without training, will throw terms into the search engine hoping that they will get something along the lines of what they are looking. Sometimes, this can bring up results that include very inappropriate sites snowballing parents fears that the internet is a terrible place and that children should not be on it.
While the internet, just like anything else, has bad parts on it, it is still an extremely valuable tool and, with the right skills and sites, can be navigated safely. Here are 10 ways for children to search the internet safely.
1. Sweet Search
This site is more student oriented in that the site is geared towards finding information related to school students. As the site states, their site
helps students find outstanding information, faster. It enables them to determine the most relevant results from a list of credible resources, and makes it much easier for them to find primary sources. We exclude not only the spam sites that many students could spot, but also the marginal sites that read well and authoritatively, but lack academic or journalistic rigor. As importantly, the very best Web sites that appear on the first page of SweetSearch results are often buried on other search engines.
The site claims that all their sites are evaluated by humans. While this ensures that all the sites are safe, it often means a limited number of sites as compared to something like Google. However, it can be a good start. The nice thing about SweetSearch is that there are more specific search engines related to SweetSearch that you can use to help narrow your search. They include SweetSearch4Me (search engine for emerging learners), and SweetSites for teachers and students, organized by subject and academic level among others.
Boolify is a very different type of search engine but it can be a very useful tool in helping your child learn to narrow their searches to be more specific. Instead of entering a search term in a box and clicking “search”, students drag puzzle pieces to create search phrases using the terms “and”, “or”, “not”. As students add puzzle pieces, the site brings up related items in the window underneath. The more puzzle pieces used, the more specific the search results. There are also ways to specify what kind of a search you want (web, book, video, image, etc) and the kind of search filtering you want (moderate or strict). Searches can be saved and the sites includes lessons to help parents and students search more effectively using Boolean terms.
3. Study Search
Study Search is a customized study search for Australian students but I say, what’s good for Australia is good for the rest of us! To start, you can choose from Primary Search or Secondary Search. The site then uses a customized Google search to bring up search results. The site states that,
when a search is done Google checks our database and gives those sites priority in the search results. The student is still doing a full Google search but the results are tuned to display sites that are more relevant.
Study Search uses the Google Strict Search filtering tool.
Visit Study Search!
Although there is a search on it, this site is more a directory of general resources and search engines students can use.
5. Ask Kids
A part of the Ask Jeeves network, this site is specifically geared to kids which you can see from the ability the site gives you to draw, paint and add stickers to the homepage. As the site states,
Ask Kids is a search engine designed exclusively for young people ages 6 to 12. It’s a free, safe, fun way for kids and their parents to quickly and easily research school topics like science, math, geography, language arts, and history in a search environment that’s safer and more age-appropriate than traditional, adult search engines. Studies prove that visual learning improves childrens comprehension, retention, critical thinking, and organization. Additionally, children are better at “mousing” than typing. Ask Kids was built with this in mind, and organizes search results in a graphically vivid three-panel display that includes SmartAnswers and related images, current events and encyclopedia results. Each web site in the Ask Kids core search index was selected by the Ask.com editorial team as child-appropriate or as a relevant and practical site for reference and learning. Ask’s proprietary search algorithm then identified communities and collections of web sites linked to the core list, and filtered those to remove adult content.
The site also includes other features that can help students including the ability to see the site in a thumbnail when you mouse over the word.
Visit Ask Kids!
Whyzz is a bit of a different beast all together. It allows parents and students to ask why questions as a search. The nice thing about this is that it can be easier to state a real language question rather than having to think of search terms to input. It also allows you to narrow by category. If you can not get a specific answer to your question, it retrieves similar questions to help you. According to the site,
whyzz helps parents with answering the endless “why” questions their kids are asking. Using whyzz, parents can find kid-ready answers to how the world works, whenever and wherever a question is asked. Articles on whyzz “translate” the facts into terms appropriate for kids, providing the information that kids want to hear!
While this can be a neat way to search, and with the iphone app, a great tool for the road, it is very limited in the information you can get back. Written by contributors, oftentimes you will not be able to get a direct answer to your question.
KidRex is a more general search engine tool which children can use for any kind of search, whether for a project, assignment or just general interest. According to the site,
KidRex is a fun and safe search for kids, by kids! KidRex searches emphasize kid-related webpages from across the entire web and are powered by Google Custom Search™ and use Google SafeSearch™ technology.
You can set this search engine as your default search engine which is very handy. I like this site because it is very kid friendly and yet very familiar to children who have used Google. The only issue is that, like the regular Google search, it is surrounded by ads which may be confusing for students.
Quintura is a very neat search site for kids. Like a typical search site, there is a search input box. However, around the edge, there are more general guide words for different categories. Clicking on one of these will add the term to the search box as well as bring up new, more narrow terms. Along the bottom are listed search results which change as you go. If you just start by typing in a search term, the guide words also change to help focus the search. The site is very easy to use for kids and visually appealing.
Visit Quintera Kids!
One of the newest search engines on the block, it is also one of oldest as it is just a new form of Google Search. The difference being that the search engine will display your results as a chart of information. For example, if you do a search on planets, Google Squared will retrieve your information as a chart including information on the size, weight, first discovered, the number of moons, etc. In other words, it takes all the information as a summary and places it in a chart formation. You can add more related terms to the chart, take parts out and filter the chart terms. According to the site,
In a nutshell
Google Squared is a search tool that helps you quickly build a collection of facts from the Web, for any topic you specify.
- Facts about your topic are organized into a table of items and attributes (we call them “Squares” for fun).
- Customize these Squares to see just the items and attributes you’re interested in.
- See the websites that served as sources for the information in your Square.
- Save and share Squares with others.
Visit Google Squared!
Speaking of Google, there are many things you can do to help search the internet safely.
1. Change filtering options: If you go to the main Google page, in the top right corner (you may have to move your mouse there to make it appear), you will see a “Search Settings” option. Going to that page, you can change the filtering options to “Strict” which will filter for explicit text and images.
2. Learn more about using appropriate search terms to help find things faster and with more appropriate results: Google provides some information on tricks and tips for doing a more effective search. You can go here to download a pdf with commonly used terms to help you in creating that search phrase. There is a also a video (via commoncraft) that helps explain some of these tips.
Whatever tool or tip you use, you will never be 100% safe from anything bad. However, that is true in life in everything. The crucial thing is to talk with your children about what they see in the media whether online or off and discuss with them what message these things are sending. Also, developing strategies for children when they come across these issues online is also an important skill to develop. I myself like the idea of having students immediately turning off the screen within 5 secs and coming to get an adult with no fear of repercussions.
What tips and tricks do you have and/or use to navigate safely? Answer in our comments?