As parents, we know that while our children are young, protecting them is one of our primary responsibilities. That doesn’t mean raising them in a bubble or cutting them off from the world, but it does mean protecting them from images and information that their immature minds can’t yet process in a healthy way. I have talked with far too many adults who still bear scars caused by dysfunction due to exposure to sex or violence at too young of an age.
Since the Internet is a primary source of information these days, both the good and bad, finding ways to make it safer is key for this generation of parents. For most, Google is the gateway to the world wide web, so it makes sense to start there.
Create a New Google Account
First, you will need to create a new Google account. You may already have multiple Google accounts (I currently have five), but this new account will be exclusively for use by the children in the house. Having a separate account will allow you to lock your specified settings for Google, which I’ll explain in the next step. You create a new Google account here.
Manage The Account’s Settings
Once you are signed in to your new Google account, scroll to the right bottom of the browser and click on Settings.
A pop up box will appear, and you will need to click on Search Settings.
The very first setting is for SafeSearch. You need to check the box labeled Filter Explicit Results, and make sure to select Lock SafeSearch. This is key. If you don’t lock SafeSearch, then it will only filter results for the current browsing session. If the setting is locked, SafeSearch will remain active as long as the account is signed in to Google – even when a browser is closed and a new one opened at a later time.
Google Instant Predictions
While instant predictions can be helpful for adults, this feature can make it that much easier for kids to stumble across inappropriate material. For example, the innocent typing of “ladybugs” suggests the term “Lady Gaga,” which is definitely not part of my 9-year-old’s science lesson! To eliminate this problem, you can simply turn off instant predictions. In Google account settings, just choose the option to Never Show Instant Results.
Nothing Replaces Parental Supervision
Thankfully, there are increasingly more tools available to reduce the incidence of accidental exposure to harmful content online, but there is nothing that is surefire. It is still essential to monitor the use of any computer that has access to the Internet.
Even with SafeSearch turned on, at this writing, there is not a way to block Google Image results. Google won’t display straight up pornographic images, but as you know, there is limitless material that, while not officially deemed pornographic, is beyond inappropriate for children. A Lady Gaga search, being a case and point.
A random note – I have explored most of the self-proclaimed “kid-friendly” search engines, but in my opinion, they all stink. The search results are far inferior and sometimes straight-up useless.
We love technology at our house, given that Jeff and I are both self-proclaimed geeks, so finding ways to make it safer for our children is paramount at our house. I’ve also written about how to make your TV safer, online safety tips, and why we need to protect our children from pornography.