This last spring, my daughter expressed an interest in learning about computers—how they work, how to use them, what they're made of. A lifelong computer geek myself, I jumped at the opportunity to bond with her over something that I have always been passionate about. I suggested that we build a computer "from scratch" and her excitement over that idea was explosive.
So, over the last few months, we've been going about scrimping and scrounging for parts in thrift stores, eBay, and (of course) the giant box of "electronic things I can't seem to throw away" in my basement. It took a little while to get everything together, but four months and ~$100 later, we had everything we needed to build her computer.
Before I continue, I should mention that kids these days don't seem to be learning computer skills nearly as organically as those of my own generation did. For us, computers quickly became ubiquitous more than a decade before smartphones. Thanks to low bandwidth availability and shared resources, text wasn't just the preferred medium of communication—it was pretty much the only one.
This meant that we learned how to type, use a mouse, and search the web through our own natural exploration, rather than formal education or training. The untamed internet, while untrusted by parents and teachers in varying capacities, became our schoolhouse.
As far as learning goes, curiosity is the most effective teacher; so once we finished building her computer, I set about trying to find a kid-friendly search engine that enabled exploration, while still protecting her from the toxicity of the greater modern web.
And, guess what?
You know what there is a surprising dearth of? High quality, kid-friendly search engines. Don't get me wrong, it's not as if there are no kid-friendly search engines, but the ones that exist are loaded with ads. It's infuriating, to be honest.
If I can't trust my parents to practice good search hygiene and not treat advertisements and search results as equivalent in value, how in the hell can I expect a 7 year old to do much better?
The Internet is Broken
Here's the thing... these kid-friendly search engines are powered by Google, which from a content standpoint is great, but from a usability standpoint leaves a lot to be desired. Google has the largest advertising platform on the internet, and it is not designed for children.
If my kids want to search for dinosaurs, they should be presented with educational and otherwise appropriate websites to help them learn about dinosaurs; not a full page of ads for dinosaurs before they see the actual search results:
Is it too much to ask for a search experience that empowers my kids to explore without immediately trying to monetize their every action?