Is Kiddle, the new ‘Google for kids’, any good?

It may look a bit like Google (if you're 5), but does the new child-friendly search engine work and is there actually any connection with Google?

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If you’ve had a moment to glance at the news today, you might have spotted headlines about the launch of a new Google-style search engine for kids – in the form of Kiddle.

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Here at MFM HQ we were, for a milli-second, almost fooled into thinking Google had launched a kid-friendly version of its search engine. But it hasn’t. So, what’s the real story?

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What is Kiddle?

First off, here’s what Kiddle is not. Nope, sorry guys, it’s NOT a search engine created by Google. In fact, Kiddle is a separate organisation, it’s just filtering results using Google’s “safe search” mode – as well as human editors – to weed out any inappropriate (or what Kiddle deems inappropriate) search terms.

Does it work?

Hmmm, it depends what you mean by “work”. In theory, Kiddle editors make sure that the search results that come up are more appropriate for children than those that might appear if they typed certain words or phrases into Google.

So if children search for a celeb’s name – such as Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus – they’d get less raunchy results using Kiddle than if they’d put those names into Google.

And if your child typed in, say, “meow meow” – they’d get cat pages rather than information about the drug Meow Meow.

On the other hand, the site’s getting some flak for words it deems “inappropriate”. Type in certain “unsuitable” words and you’ll get the message:  

“Oops, it looks like your query contained some bad words. Please try again!”

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Initial reports claimed that words such as gay, lesbian and heterosexual were getting this response. It looks like some PC tweaking has gone on since Kiddle first launched, and now these words get a less contentious message: 

“Sorry, can’t help you with this query. Please try again!”

Still, words that still get the “bad” response include pussy, pansy and menstruation (although tampons are OK). 

And type in the word “period” and the first page of results are all about time periods from history and the periodic table. Type the same word in Google, and the first result is the NHS page about, yep, periods – those ones that pre-teens might want to know about. 

Is it worth using?

Of course, the biggest issue with Kiddle – or any “safe search” mode – is that it’s never 100% foolproof. Ultimately, someone is personally deciding that pansy is a bad word, rather than a normal word that can be used in a bullying way. While it’s impossible to guarantee that your child won’t get results you don’t want them to see, you may also find that certain words are being censored that you do want them to see. 

And what age is it really aimed at? Once your child is around 7 or 8, they’ll know from how it looks that it’s not Google – not what the grown-ups use – and they won’t like the idea that they’re using a ‘baby’ version one little bit.

And then, when you’re talking about very young children, chances are that many will be getting some kind of supervision from their parents when they’re surfing the net anyway.

The bottom line on Kiddle

Ultimately, teaching your child how to use the internet isn’t something that can be done simply by turning on a safe mode – or even having dedicated editors (with whom your values might clash wildly) and hoping for the best.

It needs time and attention from parents or teachers, plus a a bit of savvy from the kids themselves, to use this vast resource both usefully and safely.

What do you think? 

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