There are many search engines designed for kids. They aim to filter out sites that parents and teachers might find inappropriate and make searching on the internet a simpler process.
There are two reasons why you might want your children to use a search engine other than the one you use yourself. Firstly, to protect them from stumbling over material you feel is inappropriate (such as pornography). Secondly, to help make it easier for them to find what they're looking for on the net.
Unlike the main search engines, which use automated software to analyse websites, search engines for kids like Yahoo! Kids, Ask Kids, KidsClick or AOL Kids use human beings to build a limited directory of websites - a ’walled garden’.
Doing this allows these services to ensure that every site they link to has been vetted and approved.
Some of these sites also offer games and other entertainment, and many are designed to be visually appealing. Each one is slightly different in its approach.
But children growing up with this technology are often far more comfortable with it than their parents are, and are unlikely to remain content with the ‘walled garden’ approach for very long.
If your main goal is to prevent them from accessing inappropriate material, the major search engines all have filters you can turn on. Usually, these are called something like ‘SafeSearch’ (Google, Yahoo!). This approach allows your child to learn how to use a search engine – arguably one of the most important tools they will need – while giving you some peace of mind.
A third approach would be to install filtering software that will not only prevent search engines from leading children to inappropriate material, but also prevent them from accessing it by directly typing in a web address. This type of software has its flaws though - it may block sites your child genuinely needs to access.
Bear in mind, however, that no search engine or software can guarantee that your child will never see anything you disapprove of. The most certain approach to internet safety is adult supervision.