Though some of the news coverage called the results of Symantec’s survey of kids’ Web searches “shocking,” I don’t think they’d surprise too many parents (or anyone who was once a kid). The results suggest that kids really like watching videos on YouTube, want to sell stuff and make a little money, are curious about sex and certain body parts, like social-network sites a lot, want the latest on certain celebrities like Miley Cyrus and the Twilight stars, and are looking for the latest video from Fred, the uber-popular kid character on YouTube with the really high voice. Though we all remember a developmentally appropriate interest in sex when we were kids, one reason why “sex” and “porn” were in the Top 10 (spots 4 and 6, respectively) could well be kids testing the system: the study was of young people with a monitoring product called OnlineFamily.Norton installed on their computers. Symantec, which makes the product, isn’t releasing the number of kids in the study (though it said the results are based on 3.5 million queries by those 8-to-13-year-olds). The software, which parents configure for kids’ maturity levels, alerts the account holder when a child tries to access inappropriate sites (involving violence, sex, drugs, etc.), but what I like about it is that it’s designed as a source of talking points for family discussion about the online part of kids’ lives. Ideally, that’s the best use of monitoring software (and it can be a good deterrent when kids know it’s installed).
One little surprising thing about the survey noted in a great analysis at ReadWriteWeb was that kids were searching for easy-to-remember URLs like Facebook, MySpace, and Yahoo. “Some may say that this points to children not entirely grasping the way internet addresses work, but it’s more likely an example of the trend where search has replaced typing in URLs for navigating the net.” Here’s coverage at the BBC and Reuters.