EDITOR'S NOTE: For an updated look at search engines for children, see "Savvy Little Searchers: Kids' Search Engines"
The services below are designed primarily to serve the needs of children, either in focus, or by filtering out sites that some parents and teachers might find inappropriate for kids. These usually include sites that deal with explicit sexual matters, porn sites, violence, hate speech, gambling and drug use.
The kid-safe directories below use human beings to filter out sites that might be considered objectionable for viewing by children.
Ask Jeeves is a unique service where you enter a question, and Ask Jeeves tries to point you to the right web page that provides an answer. At Ask Jeeves For Kids, answers have been vetted for appropriateness. Also, if Ask Jeeves cannot answer a question, it pulls results from various search engines in its metacrawler mode. At Ask Jeeves For Kids, no site that is on the CyberPatrol block list is supposed to be listed.
Backed by librarians, KidsClick lists about 5,000 web sites in various categories.
Looksmart's Kids Directory
The Kids Directory is a listing of over 20,000 kid friendly websites that were hand picked by employees of Looksmart subsidiary Net Nanny and vetted for quality. Looksmart also offers a safe search of the entire web, using Net Nanny software to filter Wisenut search results, as well as a free toolbar that uses the same service.
Yahoo for kids, designed for ages 7 to 12. Sites are hand-picked to be appropriate for children. Also, unlike normal Yahoo, searches will not bring back matched found by crawling the web, if there is no match from within the Yahooligan listings. This prevents possibly objectionable sites from slipping onto the screen. Additionally, adult-oriented banner advertising will not appear within the service. Yahooligans is the oldest major directory for children, launched in March 1996.
Most major search engines get their listings by crawling the web, rather than through human review and categorization, as with the sites listed above. This means its easy for possibly objectionable material to appear in search results.
As a solution, most major search engines offer some type of filtering ability. It's meant to keep out porn content and other material that most might not want children to encounter.
These filters are not perfect. Some material does get past them, and some safe material may get filtered out. To understand more about this, see the Harvard Criticizes Google's Adult Content Filter article that ran in our SearchDay newsletter in April 2003.
Below are tips on enabling porn filters for major search engines:
AllTheWeb: Use the Basic Settings page to enable the Offensive Content Filter option. The only works for searches in English.
AltaVista: Use the Family Filter Setup page.
AOL Search: Doesn't appear to offer a filter, but enabling Parental Controls might have an impact on web search matches.
Google: See the SafeSearch help page for instructions on setting up filtering on a permanent or as-needed basis.
HotBot: Use the Block Offensive Content section of the Filter Preferences page. Note that you may need to set this again if you change from using the default "HotBot" search engine that's offered.
LookSmart: LookSmart has never accepted adult content for listing within its directory results. However, obscure queries might bring these up in the crawler-based results that are sometimes provided.
Lycos: Use the Adult Filter section of the Advanced Search Filters page.
MSN Search: Use the Safe Search Filter on the Settings page.
Teoma: Teoma doesn't appear to offer a filter.
Yahoo: Set the SafeSearch Filter option via the Search Preferences page.
Filtering software works across the entire web, not just for search results. Most filtering software provides a fair amount of control for parents to determine what it and is not allowable content. Cyber Patrol and Net Nanny are two of the most popular of these programs.
Cyber Patrol relies on an extensive categorized list of web sites to allow parents to determine which sites are allowable or not. Content is sourced by a team of 40+ professional researchers, automated tools and customer submissions to gather the most widely accessed content on the Internet. These lists are updated frequently. Parents can also control whether individual web sites are allowed or not.
The program can filter web pages, newsgroups, chat rooms and other internet resources, and can be used to limit online time, create user logs and so on.
Looksmart acquired Net Nanny in April 2004 and added porn-free web search to the product shortly thereafter. The product provides a wide variety of parental controls, including blocking content based on content, URL, or ratings.
In addition to blocking web pages, the program allows selective blocking of access to chat, instant messaging, internet games and newsgroups. The program can also be configured to prevent illegal downloading of copyrighted or obscene material.
For more filtering software programs, see Yahoo's list of blocking and filtering software.
An organized directory of sites selected by members of the American Library Association using rigorous evaluation guidelines to assure high quality content, authority and "strength of character."
Over 14,000 sites have been classified into a directory, specifically organized for teachers, students and parents. Information can be found by browsing or searching.
Billed as an ad free, non-commercial directory of web sites designed for child-safe searching.
Over 500,000 sites of interest to educators. Browsable or searchable, with the ability to narrow in by appropriate grade level. Launched in spring 1996.
Reference provider Information Please produces this site which provides facts and information oriented around the needs of children.
This focused crawler-based service has indexed nearly 1 million kid-friendly URLs.
FirstGov for Kids
From the U.S. Federal Citizen Information Center, this directory provides links to government-related kids' sites along with some of the best kids' sites from other organizations, grouped by subject.
Kids Search Tools
Search a variety of kid-safe search engines from a single page.
Index of pages built by crawling education web sites.
Directory of web sites for teachers and educators.
TekMom's Search Tools for Students
All-in-one search page for kid search sites and research resources.
A free educational resource featuring 5,500+ websites created by students around the world as part of a competition.
Knock, Knock -- Yahooligans! There
eMarketer, May 16, 2003
Yahooligans, Yahoo's web property for children, says its third most popular feature is its human-edited list of kid-safe web sites.
Sites help kids learn how to use Internet for research
San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 20, 2002
Guide to kid-friendly search engines and advice on helping children do online research.