Critics Say Kids Search Engine Too Judgmental

John Lister's picture

A search engine designed specifically for children has caused controversy, thanks to its filters. Critics say the creators are wrong in their choice of "bad words" to block.

The site, named "Kiddle," takes several steps to make itself suitable for children. For example, it deletes its entire logs of user searches once every 24 hours and doesn't store any personal details. Of course, this also means it can't refine results like Google does. For example, the search engine won't automatically learn if a user searching for "football results" wants to know about the NFL or a soccer league.

Top Results Hand Picked

Another tool Kiddle uses is to handpick the results. Whatever a user searches for, the first three results will be hand-selected by Kiddle staff and are sites specifically aimed at children. The next four results are handpicked sites that are not aimed at children, but are written in easily understandable language. The big limitation there is that the staff can only pick out sites for a limited number of search terms, so this system won't always work.

The results in eighth place and higher are automatically generated, but are filtered using Google's SafeSearch facility to make sure they are suitable for children. (Source:

Some Search Terms Blocked

However, the tool that's causing the controversy is not to do with the results, but rather the search itself. Kiddle staff have put together a hand-selected list of terms which they judge unsuitable for children to be searching for. Instead of a results list, these terms simply bring up a message saying "Oops, looks like your query contained some bad words. Please try again!"

In some cases the list simply isn't wide enough to avoid some apparent inconsistencies. Searches for "Pamela Anderson" are blocked on the likely correct assumption that some results with decidedly adult images will get through the filters. However, there's no block on searches for "Fifty Shades of Grey."

In other cases, the choice of terms appears judgmental. Many terms such as "menstruation" and "suicide" are blocked, while the site has only just removed a block on terms such as "gay" and "lesbian" after protests. While the site's editors insist the blocks are needed to prevent the risk of users seeing inappropriate pages that slip through the net, the labeling of "gay" as a "bad word" has not gone down well in all corners. (Source:

One big problem seems to be that the site is lumping search-related circumstances together, and thus blocking searches which might otherwise be useful and informative for pubescent teenagers,  but inappropriate for an elementary school pupil.

What's Your Opinion?

Was the site right to block all searches for terms such as "gay" and "lesbian"? Should it allow all terms and instead focus on filtering the results? Is there any point to such a search tool when many kids can figure out how to bypass parental controls and search elsewhere?

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gi7omy's picture

I recall when I was the network manager in a youth club, they insisted I install filtering and they gave me a copy of net nanny. The problems started when kids searched for things like 'Titanic' or 'Essex' and net nanny threw up 'can't find ***anic' or 'es***'. I spent more time over-riding that than I spent in keeping the network up and running

bern's picture

Simply filtereing by words or part of words is useless. Ever searched for Nice (5th largest city in France) and you get nice asss, nice tits etc., or even 'blue tits habitat', or search for an adddress in the Yorshire town of Penistone (prononced Pen-is-ton), or seached for a spade to dig a trench. The list goes on. If your going to ban Fifty Shades of Grey it shold be for the most boring book of recent years and it is most likely to put kids off reading.

Yous can ban sites, but I'm sure some people would would object to bits of the Oxford dictionary or the Encyclpedia Britannica. I can remember when Lady Chaterly's Lover was first published leagally in the UK (early 60's). It was the end of the world as we know it for some both socially and sexually (Lady Chaterly's double sin wes to have sex, with the gardener) , it did not corrupt me as a teenager (socially or sexually).

In the end all we can do is block the 20% worst sites and teach kids sense and perspective.

gi7omy's picture

I can also remember one filter that worked on skin tones that blocked a picture of Maggie Thatcher LOL