Kiddle debuted this week. The bright colored logo (suspiciously similar to Google in look and feel) caught my attention and did a good job announcing itself for what it is: a search-engine built to be kid-friendly.
Is Kiddle really kid-friendly?
The Kiddle home page lays out some of the ways the company hopes to appeal to parents:
Filtered (and in some cases edited) results—which means posts are filtered by a combination of Kiddle editors and Google’s new safe search feature.
Big thumbnails for easy-to-read results
Large, friendly font
But, like everything on the internet, there is controversy. For starters, despite Kiddle's obvious similarity in logo and layout, Kiddle is not run by Google (although it is powered by Google's safe search feature).
Proponents say it’s far better than the alternative, which until now was a combination of attentive parenting, parental control filters, and wishful thinking.
With Kiddle, when kids enter a search term that might bring up questionable content, Kiddle’s ‘Guard Robot’ will block the search. That’s a good thing, say supporters of the app.
The first one to three results will include safe sites and pages that are written specifically for kids that are handpicked and checked by the editors. The next four to seven results will feature sites that include content that is written in simple language so that young children are able to comprehend what they are researching. These too are handpicked and checked by the editors. Results eight and onward include sites written for adults that are still filtered by Google safe search but are a bit harder for children to comprehend.
On the other side, are the folks who have pointed out some of the pitfalls of using a heavily-filtered search engine. Search terms that Kiddle blocks, include obvious terms like ‘sex education’ and ‘naked’, as well as less clearly objectionable terms like ‘menstruation’ and ‘balls’.
Other apparent search anomalies include the blocking of the term circumcision but not of FGM (female genital mutilation), suicide but not self-harm, the actress Pamela Anderson but not Fifty Shades of Grey.
An early point of controversy— that any searches related to LGBT issues were blocked—appears to be something the company has already begun to address. As recently as March 1, when you entered the search term ‘lesbian,’ Kiddle would respond with this message:
But as of this morning, when I "Kiddle'd" the same term, I was provided with a list of Kiddle-approved websites and resources about gay and lesbian issues.
This leaves me feeling hopeful. Whether or not it works well for an individual child or family right now, Kiddle apparently intends to continue improving the service, by listening to feedback and evolving. And that seems like good news for people on both sides of the issue.