In effort to understand these sites better, I went on a quest, looking up three different topics and comparing the results to figure out which site actually returned usable information for kids. I chose two topics likely to be needed for reports (Abe Lincoln and Tapirs) and one topic likely to be searched for fun (Katy Perry). I was looking for the sites to provide links to informative websites that would allow me to learn more, and provided what seems to be sufficient information to at least start learning about the topic. I noticed a couple of overall themes that are worthy of mentioning. First, nicknames like “Abe” instead of “Abraham” don’t bring up much for results, and don’t redirect you to the search more likely to provide you with results. Second, if you do not know how to spell something, you will not get help from these search engines. I found both of these quite frustrating. For example, there are many ways to spell Katy (Katie, Katey), and a misspelling does not give rise to hints at better search words. Given that youth using these search engines are generally learning how to search, and so don’t have the savy to do so well, this is a problem. It should be noted that while using an age appropriate search engine is helpful, it does not replace parents helping educate their kids on internet safety and internet searches. It also does not replace good monitoring.
My criteria for comparison was based on number and quality of results, not how easy they made the searches. In order to make my comparison, I checked out Yahoo Kids, Quintura.com, GoGooligans.com, RedZ.com, Famhoo.com, and askkids.com. My personal favorite was AskKids.com, because it provided good results for all search topics, and the results for less scholarly topics seemed more age appropriate than other sites. I found that while I expected to prefer sites that had prescreened where they referred kids, I instead preferred sites that increased their search safety.
Yahoo Kids. Of note, there are no spelling helpers, so if you have trouble with spelling, or are searching for an unusually spelled name (like Katie Perry), you may have trouble. I had to go to another website to find the correct spelling and go back to the kids search site.
Abe Lincoln: 169 sites, but top result no longer valid. The majority of the first three pages link to “Im a hero websites and pictures, as opposed to the summary of his life. It is not until about the third page that you get actual history. (of note, you get much better results when you type in Abraham Lincoln, with encyclopedia results, and good links to his writings early on).
Tapirs: 194 sites Encyclopedia entry, dictionary entry, and good entries with lots of tapir information early in the search
Katy Perry: 15 sites, none of which were related to the singer.
QUINTURA.COM-this looks like a fun site to lay around with, but seriously is short on information. ***This link has been removed as it the search engine is now used as a search engine for hotels, and so is not useful for youth.
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Abe Lincoln: Nothing (Abraham Lincoln brought up three websites)
Tapir: 1 site comes up, and it is not about tapirs, but about an extinct relative of them.
Katy Perry: Nothing
GoGooligans.com This site uses Google search results, although it is not actually associated with Google. It actually did provide good search suggestions, and can provide results appropriate for teachers or students. It even provides a handy safety tip at the top of the site. Unlike other sites, however, each site is not vetted by the people running it. This does leave open the risk that something nefarious may slip through. Of note, I found that it was not possible to do a second search without returning to the homepage, rather than simply typing in a new topic in the search bar. I found that frustrating.
Abe Lincoln: 7 million results. The results were kid-oriented and provided great information. These results included Abraham Lincoln.
Tapirs: 365,000 results, with the first being a kid targeted article from National Geographic.
Katy Perry: 13 million results. Some of these sites I would be less excited to have kids look at. On the first page, there is a gossip website that includes pictures of women in very small bikinis. This is probably a topic I would prefer to have vetted before my children were to see it.
RedZ.com While this was listed with other child friendly search engines (possibly because there is a cute zebra on the homepage), my first search suggested that was not a great listing, and upon further exploration, I found they were not really targeted at kids. I included the one search I made but didn’t bother with the second two.
Abe Lincoln: RedZ provided me with a link to some good websites, although it also provided me with a link to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter as the fourth hit. This makes me question how much the site is really targeted to kids.
Famhoo? (Not associated with yahoo). This search engine is a bit slow, and the results have advertisements before the actual results.
Abe Lincoln: 4 results, one of which wasn’t to an Abe Lincoln site, and the other three providing little information about our 16th president (except that he was our 16th president). Abraham Lincoln searches resulted in far better search results.
Tapir: Produced good results, good pages. The first again was a National Geographic website.
Katy Perry: This produced quite a few good results, but once again a gossip page talking about some recent indecent behavior she has engaged in was pretty high up in the listings. Maybe I am too conservative about this, but I would rather that not be the type of information the age group these search engines are targeted at gets exposed to.
AskKids.com (***This link has been removed as the search engine is no longer active). Much like GoGooligan, this is a website that filters rather than prescreens. It does start each page with sponsored results, but those results were at least linked to the searches I had made (e.g. when searching for Lincoln, they directed me to a Ford website). It did not list the number of results provided.
Abe Lincoln: Produced some good results, including links that would be helpful for report writing and for learning.
Tapir: Again, good results with top results including zoos and cute pictures (if you think Tapirs are cute, which I do).
Katy Perry: This produced a number of good results, including links to tween-targeted magazines like Bop. It did produce links to video games that have Katy-Perry type characters. Weird, but still more kid appropriate than most of the other search engines that purport themselves to be kid friendly.