We all know that Google has quickly become a regular word in children’s vocabulary. And they tend to “Google” things on a regular basis. As educators, teachers, and parents, one of your main priorities is ensuring that your students and children use the internet in safe, appropriate, and secure ways. There is no denying that digital citizenship and digital literacy are two main concepts to start with. Google is a popular and incredibly useful website for kids and students of all ages, whether they are doing their school homework or surfing the net for fun.

Here are some facts about tech use in the classroom: 

This shows why Google is an excellent way to efficiently and quickly gather information. Here are some reasons students benefit from using computers and laptops in the modern classrooms of today:

  • Children can easily adapt to different and more engaging learning methods.

  • Information on the internet is often updated much faster than books. Technology gives you access to the latest information.

  • Kids can leverage new learning tools, like virtual reality.

  • Some new educational opportunities are only available with computers, and they are vital to the world today. These include coding, website building, and image editing.

  • You can benefit from faster task accomplishment.

  • You can track progress.

Why is filtering needed?

With the increased use of computers and technology in the classroom comes the increase of risks. Keep in mind that the internet can also allow your students to Google things, such as violent content, which they shouldn’t have access to in any case. So, with the freedom that Google offers, there is a lot of weird, violent, sexual, off-putting, and usually outright inappropriate material and content that you don’t want your children or students to see. Schools can’t control what’s on the internet, but you can help control what your students see by filtering content. 

Why Is Web Filtering and Safe Search Necessary in Classrooms?

You might first be asking the question, “What is safe search?” A safe search filter promotes online security. Along with educating and informing your kids, a school’s main job is to protect them while they are there. This is the reason many schools decide to filter explicit results in their students’ internet content. They do it by blocking specific websites to protect students from objectionable and harmful content. Schools have to strike the right balance between access and safety. Learn how you can set up Google Admin Console best practices.

There is an endless supply of new sites, which can make it difficult and time-consuming to keep up with the websites you would like to block. However, parental control software will make this job easier for both educators and parents. GoGuardian Filtering helps you block websites and filter unblocked pages. You can do it in real-time in order to sift out content that’s unsuitable for your students or children.

Inappropriate Material

Keep in mind that when students or kids search for images, usually thumbnails tend to appear in the search results, and they can be inappropriate. Web filtering and safe search are excellent at making sure photos of nude women and men never appear. With web filtering, you can protect your kids from being exposed to images of child abuse and adult sexual abuse, terrorism, drug-related, and other illegal or distasteful content. Also, a search with innocuous or benign words like “jugs” is likely to turn up inappropriate images that you don’t want your kids to see.

Compliance

The U.S. Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000 to restrict children’s access to harmful and obscene online content. The act requires that K-12 schools, as well as libraries, use effective internet and web filters to protect kids from harmful online content and to be eligible for the receipt of specific federal funding, particularly e-rate funds. This makes technology more affordable for eligible schools and libraries.

Extremism, Violent Images, and Terrorism

Web filtering can also protect students and kids from violent images and seeing acts of terrorism and extremism.

Malware and Phishing

With today’s web filtering, schools enable secure and safe web access, as well as protection from highly sophisticated threats, such as malware and phishing websites. Keep in mind that hackers use fake encryption to install malware on your computer, but you can reduce this risk by using web filtering and safe search. 

Limiting Distractions

There is always the risk that rather than browsing educational websites, students scroll their social media feeds and spend countless hours on gaming portals. This risk can be eliminated with web filtering. 

What Is SafeSearch Filtering?

SafeSearch is a great automated filter of pornography, objectionable, and other offensive content that is built into search engines such as Google. If your students enter a suggestive or inappropriate phrase, then no results will be returned that may be considered unsafe and problematic.

Web Filtering

You can protect your school by blocking access to certain malicious, inappropriate, or hacked websites with GoGuardian Web Filtering. Web filtering screens incoming web pages in order to analyze and determine what needs to be displayed to the users. So, web filtering keeps users from viewing certain websites or URLs by preventing web browsers from loading pages from the sites.

SafeSearch

SafeSearch is a main feature of Google Search and Google Images, acting as an automated filter of potentially offensive content and pornography. The feature uses keywords in order to filter the searches and disallows web pages of sites that have certain unacceptable words. You can use SafeSearch Lock in order to control who may change the settings.

However, keep in mind that SafeSearch is not always accurate and reliable and is limited in some ways. For example, because of certain DNS limitations, SafeSearch doesn’t block content that is cached in your browser and your computer before enabling SafeSearch. However, you may flush caches in your web browser and computer or wait for caches to be rewritten. This can take up to 24 hours. Other limitations are:

  • There are only two settings: on and off.

  • You cannot adjust the sensitivity level.

  • You also cannot create whitelists or blacklists for specific websites.

  • It is browser-specific.

  • It relies on cookies.

GoGuardian offers a better way to filter websites using keywords to protect your students. You can use it in addition to or as an alternative to Google’s SafeSearch and to help ensure the online safety of your kids and students.

How to Turn on Google Safe Search

To turn SafeSearch on, you must go to the Google Safe Search settings page.

  1. Log into the Google account and then go to Google’s homepage.

  2. Click on Settings. You will find it in the right corner at the bottom.

  3. In the popup window, click on Search settings.

  4. Click the box next to “Turn on SafeSearch."

  5. Choose the SafeSearch level that you would like to use in the SafeSearch Filtering section:

  • Strict filtering will filter sexually explicit images and videos from Google Search result pages and results that may link to explicit content.

  • Moderate filtering will exclude sexually explicit videos and images from your Google Search result pages. However, it does not filter results that may link to other explicit content. Keep in mind that this is the default SafeSearch setting.

  • No filtering will turn off SafeSearch filtering completely.

6. Now click on Save. It is in the blue box that you will find at the bottom of your screen.
7. Note that when the box next to "Turn on SafeSearch" has the checkmark, your search results would be filtered. You will see all the search results when it doesn't have the checkmark.
8. If you would like to lock SafeSearch on a computer, click the words in blue "Lock SafeSearch" and then follow the prompts.

Locking SafeSearch

  1. The top of the search results page will look different in two ways when the SafeSearch lock is on: “SafeSearch is locked” will be displayed below that search box, and you will see colored balls on the right.

  2. Now go to the Search settings page.

  3. Click on Lock SafeSearch. You will find it below the filter levels.

  4. You will be requested to sign in if you are not signed in to your Google Account.

  5. Click on Lock SafeSearch when you sign in. This step will take a moment. This is because strict filtering is now being applied to all the Google domains.

  6. When the lock is engaged, you will see a confirmation page.

How to Turn Off SafeSearch

To turn SafeSearch off, follow these simple steps:

  1. You will have to return to the Search settings page and then click unlock. (You will have to sign in to the same Google Account that you used in order to lock Safe Search.)

  2. Now you may turn off Safe Search. 

How to Use GoGuardian Filtering

GoGuardian Admin™ is a cloud-based web content filtering solution. It is ideal for helping K-12 schools keep students and kids from deliberately or inadvertently viewing harmful images, such as nudity and other potentially damaging content on the internet. We enable a safe, digital learning environment for your kids and students with real-time, granular, and context-aware web filtering.

  1. In GoGuardian, we use asterisks to denote wildcards. Note that wildcards are an extremely useful tool for web filtering. You can block or allow keywords or URLs placed between the wildcards, regardless of the rest of the URL.

  2. When you block or allow a "wildcarded" term or domain, all URLs will contain that wildcard term, or all URL paths in that wildcard domain will be blocked or allowed. 

  3. Add a word with an asterisk immediately after or before the word to your exceptions list in order to block by keyword. Note that this feature is very useful for blocking websites with the keyword in their domain. 

  4. You can also use keyword blocks. If you add *proxy* to the block list, for example, this will block any website that contains the word “proxy” in its URL.

  5. You can also use multi-word keywords. If you add, for example, *harry+potter* to the blacklist, it will block all URLs for these terms, and the "+" sign will represent a single space character in your search field.

  6. You can also use sub-domain blocks. If you add, for example, *.mlb.com to the blacklist, kids will be able to access mlb.com; however, they will be blocked from various sub-domains, like yankees.mlb.com.

  7. It is possible to use multi-word keywords with over two wildcards: if you add, for example, *unblocked*games* to the blacklist, it would block all Google searches for these search terms, with any number of characters between the two terms (represented often by the middle wildcard). Note that it will also block all URLs with these two terms, in that order, and with any characters between the two terms.

Final Thoughts

It is no secret that content filtering and student safety and online security are best deployed as holistic school initiatives so that everyone knows and understands why you are filtering. The challenge for all educational organizations, such as schools, is to protect their students from harmful and objectionable content while offering the freedom to learn without any limits. 

When IT, administrators, parents, teachers, and students understand web filtering and understand what safe and secure internet access is, we can all work closely together to keep students safe and secure while providing them with access to informative educational materials that help them learn. Contact us and learn about GoGuardian Block Pages.