A few nights ago I had the pleasure of sharing my online safety tips with some friends over a few glasses of wine. While preparing some information to share with them I did a bit of testing. I wanted to see which search engine did the best job of hiding “adult-oriented” information from younger eyes. All three of the major search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Bing, have “Safe Search” options. I found that Bing and Yahoo did a much better job than Google.
My not-too-scientific methodology was to perform a few searches on each site with the default search settings in place. I won’t repeat my search terms here – because I don’t want THIS site to show up when people look for “dancers who don’t wear shirts” or “male body parts below the waist”.
The good news is that the default settings for all three is Safe Search ON. You then have the choice to either change the setting to “Strict” or to turn if off completely. I tried the same searches with each setting.
The bad news is that even with Safe Search locked to the strictest setting in Google I was still seeing some image results that I would prefer my daughter not see. However, Yahoo and Bing show a message similar to this: (similar message for image and video results).
What about Searching on mobile devices?
I tried similar searches on my daughter’s iPod touch in the Safari browser. Again I found Yahoo and Bing offerred safer searching than Google – even after changing the Google settings to Strict. So I would recommend changing the default search engine in Safari to either Yahoo or Bing on iDevices. You can do this from Settings – Safari – Search Engine:
Here are some links to help you choose the most appropriate settings for your family. Keep in mind that kids are pretty savvy so for the best protection you’ll want to lock the settings in place for any search engine they may use.
Bing: http://www.bing.com/settings.aspx (Update – I’ve since learned that there is no option in Bing to lock your search setting. For that reason you may want to choose Yahoo, or Google, which can both be locked. Check out this article from the Social Network and Information Safety information for Parents blog, which is a great resource by the way!)
Happy (and safe) Searching!