Image of the Kiddle Interface showing this new search engine for kids and the blog title Kid Search Engines: An Evaluation of Kiddle.

Yesterday I began looking into Kiddle. Kiddle isn’t the first search engine for kids to hit the market. There are a number of kid search engines available. My initial thoughts on Kiddle was it appears to be a nice tool for parents of younger kids. I made a couple of notes and planned to get a post written over the weekend. Over the past few days I’ve seen an overwhelming number of article notifications for Kiddle. Reactions to this tool are strong and all over the map. I honestly thought, “why even write a post on it?”  But, I have to throw my hat in the ring. I feel as if we’re losing sight of what Kiddle is. It’s one of many kid search engines on the market right now. Kiddle isn’t a parent. Kiddle is a tool.

With that in mind, I dove into Kiddle. I tested it based on complaints I was reading. I searched lots of words. And, when I say lots of words, I mean lots of them. As in, I checked with my young adult kids in college to make sure I got the “latest terminology” for things parents want to pretend our kids don’t know and definitely don’t do. I’m somewhat scarred, but now informed.

Kid Search Engines: An Evalutation of Kiddle

The Kiddle interface is strikingly similar to the Google search interface. But, it’s geared towards kids. You find a fun outer space theme complete with a robot alien. One might assume Kiddle is owned by Google, however this is not true. Kiddle is powered by Google safe search, but Google does not own Kiddle.

Close up image of the Kiddle homepage.

So, what’s the difference between simply using Google safe search and Kiddle? Kiddle edits a bit more. It delivers search results hand-picked by editors to ensure those results are kid-friendly.

Results are ordered in 3 ways.

Results 1-3

These results will always be curated by the editors. They are safe sites written specifically for children.

Results 4-7

These results are also curated by the editors. The results will feature sites that include content that is written in simple language so young children are able to comprehend what they are researching.

Results 8-above

These results are not curated by the editor. They are still filtered by Google safe search so the hope is that kids won’t be served up anything inappropriate. But, the sites are tailored to adults. So the content may be harder for kids to digest.

Image taken from Kiddle which explains their results.

In addition to curating kid-friendly content and Google safe search, Kiddle gives parents additional options.

Parents can block additional keywords by submitting a simple form.  They may also request to block a site they feel is not suitable for children. The editors have a way for you, the parent, to offer feedback and let them know what keywords and sites aren’t appropriate for your child. Kiddle isn’t the parent! Many kid search engines don’t offer parents tools so they can take what’s offered and custom fit it for their family. Kiddle does. Use them!

Image of both Kiddle Keyword and Site Blocking feature for parents.

Kiddle doesn’t collect personal information. They clear their logs every 24 hours.

So how well does Kiddle work? I went into my experiment feeling a bit skeptical after reading reports online about Kiddle allowing “adult content” links and ads. And I read a number of complaints saying Kiddle was blocking sites allowing kids to access information they might need when reaching out for help. Both sides of this pendulum are upsetting to me as a parent. Here are a few screenshots with a handful of the words I searched. I’m not including many of the words I searched simply because I don’t want my blog marked as not suitable for families.

Image of the "Opps try again" message kids receive if they type in an objectionable word.

“Oops, try again!” came up for any search I tried when entering words related to drugs and sex. I tried lots of them. Lots and lots of them. See the first paragraph where I admit to asking my young adult children for terms. I’m still scarred. My kids may be as well.

Image showing kids can get links to relevant information on health issues. Here girls get links to websites with information on menstruation from a search of the word "period."

Kids are able to get information on health issues that pertain to them. Sites I found when doing health related term searches were age appropriate. And, I didn’t find ads that were objectionable. I would have been a child who would have searched terms like period and menstrual cycle. I’m not even embarrassed to admit it. I had questions at that age. My mom was approachable and we were close; but it was still embarrassing to ask her questions. We can’t act like kids don’t search for health-related information. Our job as parents is to make sure our kids have access to information they need while helping them understand online safety, and avoid pitfalls along the way.

One topic that caused a bit of talk this week was how Kiddle was handling searches using the terms transgender and transsexual. I’ve watched the searches for both terms change this week. And, honestly it seems the editors are trying to find a balance which allow kids the ability to get information while making sure they don’t expose them to sites which might put them at risk. It’s a work still in progress. Here are screenshots from March 2 & 3, 2016.

Image of search results for transgender

 

Yesterday the terms transgender and transsexual pulled the same search results. Today, they pull different results. And, notice two Google ads that appear when the term- is misspelled. The ads wouldn’t be an issue if they were kid friendly. These aren’t. So, it does appear the editors are working on some searches and still have some work left to do to find that balance. I’m sure it’s not easy. And, remember, what you might deem appropriate for kids, someone else might not. That’s why placing a filter on your computer and calling it good while not talking to your kids about online safety and what they do online is not the answer.

Image showing spelling matters. And, an occasional ad might pop up that's not really age appropriate.

Kids can still easily go incognito using that Google browser option. However, incognito is easily recognizable. Yes, kids can flip back and forth between screens. But, I come back to the issue, once again, if that is the case this isn’t an “Oops” issue. This is a character and communication issue. One that needs to be addressed with open communication. Blaming it on the filter, the tool, or the app, gives your child an excuse for their actions.

Image showing kid search engines only work when kids don't use the incognito feature.

 

Overall Kiddle is a good search engine for young kids. I think they have a few bugs to work out still. Kiddle may lean towards over-filtering more than not filtering enough. I wouldn’t use it for older kids as I think they won’t have access to enough information on topics.

When thinking through Kiddle in terms of safety, remember that filters and kid search engines are tools. A filter isn’t going to build strong character in our kids. Especially if we filter and ignore underlying issues. Use Kiddle as a tool, but remember YOU are the parent. And, nothing – absolutely nothing – replaces parent/child communication.

Communication IS your best filter.

 

3 Comments

  1. PollyAlida on March 5, 2016 at 1:13 am

    A good and thorough assessment of Kiddle. And always good to remind people that no tech solution is going to replace parenting!

    My main objection to kiddle is the lack of transparency and all the advertising. The person who created it, also created the site Freaking Awesome. And as of last weekend, was promoting a bunch of other sites similar in strategy to kiddle on his facebook page. (his page is now cleared of those references and those sites now redirect to google) Basically, he’s created ad-revenue monsters between his https://www.lukol.com/ and kiddle sites.

    There are other tools that do the same sort of thing and have been around longer.

    • Leah Nieman on March 5, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      Thanks for your comment. You are correct, the ads aren’t needed. And, I noted some that were inappropriate for kids. As a parent that would be my first red flag. Our kids see ads all the time. But, if a site is specifically advertised for kids, ads either aren’t needed or need to be age appropriate. As for lack of transparency, I didn’t include that simply because I don’t want to speculate on the owner’s intent. Sure, I have my opinion. And, my guess based on what I’ve read and looking at whois.net is you are correct. But, I wanted to provide parents with a review of Kiddle itself. How it functions and works. I do throw my overall thoughts in my reviews. But, I felt here adding information about the owner was too speculative. And, I felt my overall point was shown clearly- As parents we have to talk to our kids. We can’t just always jump on the “newest thing” everyone is talking about before checking it out ourselves. Again, thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Mary on June 11, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    You should also consider KidzSearch.com which has been around for over 10 years and is used by many schools. They have different search strictness levels as a setting and many other useful features for kids, like student focused autocomplete, voice search, homework help section, educational videos, etc.

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