It’s true, kids today don’t have to read anything in books because it’s all on Wikipedia, so when it comes time for Junior’s first book report you can either get indignant or recognize: Encyclopedia Britannica ain’t walking through that door. Unless there are still door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen. Are there? Now there’s a kid-specific search engine where Junior can find you the answer — although whether or not you want your kid to use it is a bit of an open question.
Kiddle is a new “visual search engine for kids.” The search page looks like Google landed on on the moon — familiar red, yellow, green, and blue letters above a search bar, on an outer space landscape with a friendly robot just because — but this isn’t a Google product. Rather, it’s a skin that sits on top of Google Safe Search and delivers results with editorial curation that confirms sites are either written specifically for kids or written in simple, kid-friendly language. Those account for the first 6-7 results on any search, followed by more safe-search filtered results that might require some parental explanation. So you can feel confident your kid’s getting relevant information, and they’ll leave you alone until almost Page 2 of their search results. Other kid-friendly features include large thumbnail images for easily scannable visual results, large Arial font for readability, and a 24-hour log deletion cycle to protect privacy. You can also block certain sites and keywords, because even though Kiddle won’t return social media profiles, “Bieber” is still very much safe to search. If he’s the book report subject, you could argue you’ve got bigger problems with Junior’s teacher than their search engine.
Early returns on Kiddle’s efficacy have been mixed at best — questionable articles turning up for benign words, racy photos slipping through the filters, the word “gay” being blocked, and ads, ads, ads. Until they work out all the kinks, you may want to stick with a Common Sense Media-approved kid search engine like KidsClick, or an actual Google product — Google Scholar — for older students to find reference materials. You know, like Encyclopedia Britannica.