Kids today are usually more comfortable on the internet than their parents. While this has revolutionized the way children study, do homework, and interact with each other, it also has a very scary side. Can you imagine the amount of hardcore content on the net, and how damaging they could be for a child’s mind? The need to protect kids from inappropriate content is one of the reasons for having special search engines for them. Another is aesthetic appeal. The bare Google screen that looks so classy to us may actually be very boring for a child.
So how can you find a nice search engine your child can use? Well, here are ten of the best search engines for kids:
Also check this guide on Internet safety that explains how to keep kids safe online.
1. Google Safe Search for Kids
While Google for Kids doesn’t have an unusually bright or colorful home page, it does have the widest possible set of child-appropriate search results. A very strict filter is constantly on, and any content that has the slightest chance of being potentially illicit is filtered. However, a little more interaction with users, such as moving icons or fun pictures, would have made this site more visually appealing for children.
2. Yahoo! Kids
Yahoo’s search engine for children (formerly known as Yahooligan) is substantially more exciting looking than Google’s, with bright colors and styles that will be attractive to kids. It also makes for easy searching, especially if kids are looking for their favorite cartoons, movies, TV shows, and games. They can explore encyclopaedias and study materials too, in a completely safe environment. We only wish they had included a section for books, to encourage children to read.
3. Ask Kids
Ask’s search engine for kids is another very safe place for children to explore the world of the internet. The search page looks like a school notebook, with a funny picture, making it easy for kids to relate to it. Apart from the regular search features, and sections for movies and games, Ask Kids has an interesting Answers section which addresses questions that kids keep coming up with, in various topics ranging from math to gardening. Again, we wish there were a separate section on books too.
Powered by Google’s custom search, and cushioned by SquirrelNet’s advanced screening software, this search is completely safe for kids. Another great feature of this search is that it can be used by teenagers as well, with emphasis on topics of their interest. However, this could also turn out to be a problem, because five year old children may end up reading topics about physical needs or self harm, which are really relevant and safe for teenagers only.
Among all the search engines we tested while compiling this list, KidRex by far had the most attractive search page. With a child’s marker drawing of a sun, a palm tree, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and with crayon fonts in a child’s handwriting, it is decidedly adorable. But it also has filter that’s very tough to beat. KidRex removes all inappropriate results from your child’s search. If they are naughty and search for forbidden words, the site will return a friendly but stern ‘Oooops! Try again!’
The name of this search page makes it very obvious that this is meant exclusively for kids. Based on the iconic internet characters, Dib Dab Doo is mainly targetted at preschoolers and primary school students. For this reason, their filter is very strong, permitting only the safest content in the results. This site, apart from the search option, lets you select from a huge variety of homework based topics. However, since Dib Dab is meant for very young children, we feel that it would have worked better with more appealing, larger fonts that are better spaced. The current look is so crowded that it could be intimidating for children.
7. Aga Kids
Aga Kids search engine for children is quite unique, as it is a visual search engine. The results are displayed as screen shots of the appropriate websites, which children can scan through and select from. The safety filters are very much in order, we found it impossible to get across them, and we were chided with an exclamation of “Bad Word!!’ from the site. While this is a good thing for pre-school users, middle graders may have a natural curiosity for various taboo topics, especially those about their own bodies, and instead of blocking them altogether, the search engine should have provided links of sites that explain these issues maturely and informatively.
Another useful site for children, Kidsclick lets kids explore their natural curiosity about the world around them, while keeping them safe from inappropriate sites and content. However, this site, as the home page says, has been designed by librarians, and it certainly looks like an online library. While grown ups will appreciate the importance of the emphasis on learning, kids, at least some kids, will be quickly bored by the very dry format. Kids have low attention spans, and they need more visuals to keep their interest. Also, we feel the sober green background, and the tiresome tiny fonts, will drive away more kids than they attract.
9. Quintura for Kids
As far as an attractive search page goes, Quitura for kids leaves no cause for complaints. The site is extremely bright and colorful, full of cartoon characters, and designed in the perfect way to attract a child. The screen is also interactive, each kite hold a quivering icon which specifies the topic for searching, such as history, sports, and wildlife. If you click on the icon of you choice, the words in the clouds change to become subtopics of the selected topic. Hovering your mouse over a word in the clouds would cause that word to appear in the search window. However, despite the sophisticated interactive screen, the search results are not really comprehensive, and tend to be incomplete.
Of all the search engines we researched, we have to admit that we had the most fun playing with Boolify. Since children do not easily grasp the use of boolean logic in searching, this site assists them in forming correct search queries, according to what they need. The primary boolean operators like and, not, & or, are set out like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and they can be dragged onto the search window to join two words or boolean expressions. We are sure kids will have fun playing and learning with the toy like tool, but the process becomes very slow and can eventually leave a child bored. Also, we could not find a way to edit already created expressions, and had to refresh every time we made a mistake.