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Secure search on the Internet

2 minutes reading time
6-17 years
Copyright: photothek.de

By searching the Internet, children and young people can quickly come across content that is not suitable for their age because it is highly sexualized or contains depictions of violence. A specific filter function in search engines – SafeSearch – is intended to prevent this and make surfing safer for young people and children.This filter technology can be activated in most online search engines: Inappropriate and adult content is then automatically filtered out of the search results and not displayed.

Enable safe search

With the most popular search engines – such as Google, Bing and Ecosia – you can switch on the filter function very easily via the respective start page and then via “Settings”. There are often two filter levels: Strict and Medium/Moderate.

SafeSearch on Google can be enabled for:

If Google detects that the user is younger than 18, SafeSearch is automatically turned on and can be turned off by parents in the case of a family account. With a Google account, the filtering technology works on the computer as well as on mobile devices (Android and iOS).

At Bing you can also find SafeSearch under Settings. Bing removes inappropriate search results in two stages:

  • Strict: texts, images and videos that are not suitable for minors are filtered out of the search results.
  • Means: adult images and videos are filtered out of the search, but not texts.

At Ecosia you can access the settings via the menu on the home page, where you could activate Safe Search (Strict/Medium).

What can be problematic?

If you use a search engine other than the ones mentioned, look in the settings to see if “Safe Search” can be set.

Keep in mind that no filter function is 100% accurate. It can always happen that images or search results are not recognized by the program. When this happens, you can report this content. SafeSearch (on Google, Bing and Yahoo) filters according to American standards. This means that results are also filtered out that are not harmful to minors under German law (e.g. nudity). Results that are not youth-friendly according to German law (e.g. violence) or even punishable (e.g. Holocaust denial) are sometimes reported anyway.

Tip for parents: Use child search engines

If your child is younger (elementary school age), we recommend using children’s search engines. With the help of these, they can learn to navigate safe websites online before they are introduced to “adult offerings.” Children’s search engines work with so-called whitelists – only those pages are displayed in the search results that have previously been checked for child-friendly content. Accompany your child as they take their first steps on the Internet. If your child is older and moving online on his or her own, regularly ask about his or her experience and be responsive.

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