Google is such a wonderful tool for learning, but it can also lead kids onto paths that are not appropriate for them. What should a parent do to block the more mature content but also let their kids search safely online to learn and explore new topics?
After hearing about all the options for net nannies and special software, it almost seems like going back to the days of Encyclopedia Britannica would make for easier parenting! I felt like trying to filter my kids’ searches was going to be complicated, frustrating and expensive. I almost didn’t do it.
Then, one day I sat down, sorted through my options, and I found out that there are some simple and effective options to let your kids search safely online. Of course, discussing and setting boundaries with your child are necessary. Then, adding safe filtering and oversight can close the gaps and ensure that your child stays on the right path. These strategies combined can easily and effectively help you child manage the internet in a safe and appropriate way.
Before you let your kids loose on the internet, make sure you spend some time talking with them about your rules and expectations. Also, let your kids know, very clearly, what the consequences are for not following the rules.
Most importantly, explain to your kids that they can come to you with ANY questions that they have or when they are unsure about what they found online. Your kids may run across ALL KINDS of topics, images and videos online. As parents, we want our kids to be comfortable coming to us with their questions, not a friend or classmate.
Kids are using digital devices as young as 1 year old now. As soon as they can touch a screen, they can use a digital device. However, just because kids are using digital devices doesn’t mean that they know how to use them correctly.
My kids started researching topics online when they were in Kindergarten. They were given some basic guidance in class, but also learned how to research through trial and error. While trial and error can be an effective learning method, I did not like taking that risk with all the inappropriate content available to kids on Google.
When you child is old enough to start looking for information on the internet, take some time to teach them how to search correctly. These steps may seem basic, but are important bits of information to a child and can fill in any gaps that your child might not know.
- Start with the basics of which icon to click on and where to type the words they are searching for.
- Show your child how different search words will produce different results.
- Explain to your child that the search results will be divided into articles, images, videos, etc and how to navigate those screens.
- Talk to your child about which articles you would click on to read and why.
Here are three different ways to keep your child safe while searching and browsing online. Each option provides a different level of filtering, so pick the one that is right for your family. You could even use more than one option if that works best for your child.
Option 1 – SafeSearch Filter in Google
Google’s SafeSearch filter will help to block out most of the “mature” content from search results to help your kids search safely online. However, please note that this filter is not 100% accurate. It is a very easy way to keep older kids from accessing the worst of the internet and still giving them freedom to be online.
To turn on SafeSearch follow these quick steps:
- Open Chrome and make sure that you are signed in with your Google account
- Go to https://www.google.com/preferences
- Click “Turn on Safe Search”
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Save.”
- To lock in the restrictive filtering and prevent a user from searching without SafeSearch, click “Lock SafeSearch”
Option 2 – Add a Supervised User Google Account
If you would like more oversight in what your child is doing online, I would suggest setting up a Supervised User Google Account. This is very easy to set-up and manage.
Creating a Supervised User will allow you to view websites visited, block websites and prevent the user from installing any browser extensions or apps. Setting up a Supervised User will also automatically turn on SafeSearch in Google Chrome.
Setting-Up a Supervised User on your computer
1. Open Chrome and sign in if you are not automatically signed in.
2. In the top right corner of the screen click on the button with your name or “People.”
3. Click on “Manage People”
4. Select “Add Person” in the bottom right corner of the pop-up window.
5. Enter the users name and select an icon. I would recommend checking “Create a desktop shortcut for this user”, so it is easier for your child to log on as themselves.
6. Check “Supervise this person to control and view the websites they visit from your Google Account.”
7. Click the down arrow and select your account.
8. Click “Save”.
At this point you can either go to www.chrome.com/manage to configure the settings or you can click “Switch to ___” and open the new supervised profile.
Configuring Supervised User Settings
1. Go to chrome.com/manage
2. Click “Manager User” underneath their name
3. Click the pencil in the top right corner to block sites
4. Using the drop down menu under “Allow,” you can change the permissions to “Only approved sites” or “All of the web”
If you select “All of the web,” you can enter specific sites to block. If you select “Only approved sites,” you can select sites to allow.
5. When you go to www.chrome.com/manage to configure your child’s settings, you can also view their browsing history. Each site they visited can be approved or blocked from this screen.
6. If you want to prevent your child from logging on as you, make sure to select “Exit and Childlock” when you close out of Chrome.
Now, when your child goes to the computer, have them click on their icon on the desktop. This will ensure that they are using their Supervised User account, and you can track their activities and block sites as needed.
Option 3 – Kid Search Engine
There are a few kid-friendly alternatives to Google. These search engines are powered by Google Custom Searches, but they are NOT associated with Google. If your child is younger and can be trusted to go to just one or two bookmarked websites, then one of these sites might be a good option. If you do choose this option, I would suggested adding a link to these sites on your desktop or home screen.
One kid search engine example is Kiddle. Kiddle provides very restrictive search results, and will even provide no results for inappropriate searches. You can try Kiddle here.
Here are a few other kid-friendly search sites.
Talk. Teach. Filter.
Three simple steps that require no extra software or special skills. Plus, the three easy ways to filter can be set-up in just a few minutes. Once set-up, you can let your kids search safely online, and rest easy that they are learning and exploring in a safer online environment.
Learning to be good digital citizens will be a long process for our children, the digital natives. However, safe filtering along with discussing boundaries and expectations with your kids as they grow and mature will get them off to a great start and keep them away from the dark corners of the the internet.
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