New Swiggle protects children as they take their first net steps
SWGfL, a partner in the UK Safer Internet Centre, has launched a new search engine for Key Stage 2 children to use at school and at home.
After a 18 months of development, the Online Safety experts at SWGfL are proud to announce the launch of our new child friendly search engine, Swiggle.org.uk.
Building effective online search skills in children and young people is vital in ensuring learners get to the information they need for their studies. Generic search engines are aimed at a wide audience, and are designed to service requests for anything thrown at them, inappropriate for children or not.
We have redeveloped Swiggle from the ground up to provide the best online safety and user experience for young people as they take their first steps in searching the internet and towards independence.
The Skill of Searching the Internet
Effective searching needs to start with fundamental and effective search terms without the distractions of advertising, paid-for search ranking and inappropriate content. Large search engines were not designed with children in mind; young children need a “sandpit” to allow those skills to develop and flourish.
Swiggle makes it simple
With this is mind we have designed Swiggle to offer a simple and friendly user experience to our young audience, the interface is clean and uncluttered, the search results big and visual, with thumbnails for each result when available.
We are also introducing image search for the first time, without the long screed of thumbnails that can often return highly inappropriate images.
Swiggle is Ad-free
As a registered charity, here to promote the safe use of technology within education, we are in the unique position of being able to offer Google powered search results without any advertising, unlike other commercial alternatives.
We believe this is an important feature of Swiggle to enable young people to search the internet without any commercial compromise or distractions.
Online Safety Tools
Ofsted in their seminal "Safe Use on New Technologies" 2010 report found that "Pupils in the schools that had ‘managed’ systems had better knowledge and understanding of how to stay safe than those in schools with ‘locked down’ systems. Pupils were more vulnerable overall when schools used locked down systems because they were not given enough opportunities to learn how to assess and manage risk for themselves".
We know that technical barriers on their own are not an effective solution for encouraging safer use; we have to enable young children to discover, test and fail constructively in a safe environment.
Swiggle enables searching across the entire internet, and thus cannot guarantee that inappropriate results will not appear; however, it is designed to mitigate this risk as far as is possible through a number of custom mechanisms, as well as providing simple tools to enable young people to deal with any content they feel is unsuitable for them.
We check all search queries before they are executed. For example you cannot search for “knife”, although you can search for “knife and fork”.
We have also worked on ways you could trick the system into returning inappropriate results such as entering the search with multiple letters in place of a single letter - try entering “Kniife” into other child friendly search engines and see what you find (particularly with image searches!)
Our Online Safety experts have curated a list of banned search terms to provide a safer environment for young users, blocking or redirecting inappropriate searches.
Google SafeSearch Technology
All Swiggle searches are filtered by Google SafeSearce. At a top level this filters out adult and and NSFW (not safe for work) content.
The search results that Swiggle returns are focussed on education, so expect the results to be geared towards the sort of subjects that children learn as part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum.
Screen Cover Widget
After finding a search result on Swiggle, or any other search engine, it is perfectly normal to click through a few pages, perhaps even go to other websites that are linked from the first. Depending on the filtering you have in place, this could lead to young people accessing content that they may find upsetting or know is not suitable for them.
We have built the Swiggle Screen Cover widget to help in these situations by providing a button that can be clicked to cover any unsuitable content, the SwiggleBot (more on him later!) then tells the child to get an adult, who can then see details of the page that was accessed, and report it to their system administrator (in the case of schools), and also to us if the page was found through Swiggle. These are the first steps in self-regulation for young users placing the adult at the heart of the conversation and encouraging children to “take control” of what they experience online.
Introducing the SwiggleBot
Our SwiggleBot is always on hand to help young people find what they are looking for. Just click the bot to activate, and it can help with tasks such as learning to enter more effective search queries and reporting pages, you can even use it to customise Swiggle!
Install Swiggle in your School
Why not make Swiggle the default search engine in your school? Or at home?
We have developed a browser extension to enable you to make Swiggle the default search engine as well as install the Screen Cover Widget. It is currently available for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
This article was originally posted in the SWGfL Magazine.