It’s “Safer Internet Day” today, a global event promoting online safety particularly among children and young people.
Whilst looking through related tweets today, I came across a number of tweets from teachers who were using a search engine called “KidRex” in their classrooms.
KidRex bills itself as “a fun and safe search for kids, by kids! … KidRex searches emphasize kid-related webpages from across the entire web“
The site is powered by Google Custom Search™ and use Google SafeSearch™ technology. KidRex claims that “Google’s SafeSearch™ screens for sites that contain explicit sexual content and deletes them from your child’s search results.” and that “In addition to Google SafeSearch™, KidRex maintains its own database of inappropriate websites and keywords. KidRex researchers test KidRex daily to ensure that you and your child have the best web experience possible“
So, let’s take a closer look….. upon loading the KidRex website (which incidentally is ONLY accessible via insecure http), nice colorful crayola graphics depict a sun, palm tree, and a dinosaur surrounding a search box and search button. Underneath is the tag line “Safe search for kids, by kids!”
…but beneath all that was a “Work at home with Bitcoin” advert claiming the viewer could earn “extra income” up to $789/day – clearly this is NOT a suitable advert to be appearing a supposed child-friendly search engine:
I then decide to try and see just how “child-friendly” the search engine was, and given that this week sees the global release of the third in the Fifty Shades film trilogy, I searched for the term “B.D.S.M.” …to my surprise, the results were unfiltered, with offerings including links to external pages entitled “A Very Sexy Beginners Guide to BDSM words” and “5 BDSM Sex Tips That are Perfect for Beginners”:
These are NOT the results I’d expect from a so-called “child-friendly” search engine!
KidRex do state on their website “No filter is 100 percent accurate, but SafeSearch™ should eliminate most inappropriate material.” and “We do our best to keep KidRex as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible, but inappropriate sites will sometimes slip through the cracks” and “While KidRex is not a 100 percent foolproof way to keep kids from bad or malicious sites, we think it’s a good start“. KidRex also provide a way for users to suggest individual webpages that shouldn’t appear in their results.
But, my message on this Safer Internet Day is just because something online is billed as being “child-friendly” or “safe for kids” doesn’t mean it is! Don’t let colorful child-like graphics lull you into a false sense of security.
Most of all, my message to parents and teachers is; NEVER let your children access the internet/go online without constant supervision at all times!