Published by Leyre Velasco, 25th May 2012

In La Piazza, we insist that it is important to keep an eye on your teenager’s online practices despite how difficult it is sometimes to strike a balance between trust and authority, as explained in Mom, were you spying on me?

Well, sometimes, even the most cautious parents and kids get unpleasant surprises when simply searching for information on the Internet. Usually, search engines crawl for websites and then use advanced techniques to determine search results. The fact is that no human categorisation or intervention is involved, as web spidering is bot-based.

safe search
Safe search

Therefore when you are searching pages or images, for example, the most innocent keywords could return results related to explicit sexual matters, pornography, violence, drug use, gambling etc..

A friend of mine recently told me that this type of situation happened to her once when her 13 year-old daughter was doing her homework. She had to do a project on the food pyramid. In order to illustrate the subject, she decided to prepare a Power Point presentation containing images of the different types of foods. There she was googling words like cereal, vegetables, bread, fish, etc.. Fair enough, the basic nutrients.

However, when she went looking for specifics and typed in certain type of vegetables or fruits, the returned results were not, let’s say, as expected. Luckily, my friend was sitting next to her daughter and was quick to press the Back button. Although my friend told me she had the feeling this could have happened, deep down she was hoping for a filter of some kind to be applied by default. Wrong!! As far as I know, you do have to change the default configuration of the search engine or else opt for other alternatives, so here go some of them:

  • Apply child filters in your usual search engine. If you use Google, check the SafeSearch Filtering section.
  • Get your child to use search engines which offer child-friendly content only. They achieve this by filtering out inappropriate content which you, as a parent, would find offensive for your child. In general, this is done by using human beings to filter out the unsuitable sites. Check out article Which Search Engines are Safe for Kids? for further information.
  • Install Parental Control applications on your computer. The 2012 Panda Security products which feature this type of protection.

And keep an eye on the Internet history, and temporary Internet files to ensure that only what you want seen is viewed on your home computer.

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