On paper this seems like a great idea: a safe search engine that allows children to search the web without fear of them landing on something unsavoury. The issue is that those who have created it are the definers of what is or isn’t appropriate for a child’s eyes to see and as Kiddle is run by actual humans rather than robots – this leaves a lot of things open to interpretation. I think we all know and understand that things like porn, pro self harm/anorexia sites and “how to make crystal meth” pages should be kept from the impressionable eyes of children but where should the line between protection and censorship lie? A little more work around differentiating between what counts as simple information and what counts as overly graphic or harmful could potentially solve this conundrum – but that all depends on the disposition of those controlling this app.
When we consider the reasons why a child might be surfing the web for something like “what is child abuse” it becomes likely that they don’t feel able to talk to an adult about such things – it’s very possible that the adults in their life aren’t supportive or perhaps even abusive. Of course it’s completely tangible that the child may be trying to stay informed or searching on behalf of a friend even…but in any case why on earth would this search term get blocked? Searching for terms such as “gay” “LGBT” “pregnancy” and “menstruation” were also on the block list. Perhaps I’m biased as I’m pretty liberal in my beliefs but I fail to see what is harmful in a child wanting to understand their ever changing body, if regular old Google SafeSearch can tell the difference between an informative site about puberty and porn then surely Kiddle can?
Admittedly, I don’t have children so it is all well and good saying I think I know what I would allow my hypothetical child to view but I find something seriously wrong with keeping kids ignorant especially on topics such as child abuse and where to seek help! This sort of shielding kids from the world around them just leaves them even more vulnerable. I just think you have to view it as though something bad has happened to your child or a friend, would you want them to be equipped with the information to get help? Colour me paranoid but, if you were an abuser you probably wouldn’t.
So you would think that a staunchly kid safe browser that doesn’t allow a child to research periods would be completely devoid of anything violent right? Nope, as you can see below (images pinched from Dr Jill McDevitt’s tumblr) searching for how to purchase a firearm is completely okay.
For me it all seems a little off and it begs the question: Who has designed this? Who is it for? What parents would want their children to feel unable to ask these questions about the world/access help if they felt they needed it? The worst part is there is no information on who owns the site or how to contact them. I would strongly advise any parents not to download this for their kids to use until it is properly tested and a little more transparency on who, how and why is introduced.