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Searching for Fred – what kids are looking for online

A new report from Symantec, the security software company, provides an interesting insight into the most common Internet search terms used by kids. The information was gathered from the use of Symantec’s OnlineFamily.Norton service, which lets parents monitor and manage their kids’ online activities, including web searches.

Here are the top 10 search terms among kids for the period from February through July:

  1. YouTube
  2. Google
  3. Facebook
  4. Sex
  5. MySpace
  6. Porn
  7. Yahoo
  8. Michael Jackson
  9. Fred
  10. eBay

Other terms included games (17), boobs (28), the Jonas Brothers (47), and iTunes (89). And Fred? He’s a kid whose YouTube channel has become a big hit among other kids.

The Online.Family Norton service is geared towards children ages 8 to 13. The service allows parents to set up separate accounts for each child in the household, so they can be monitored individually. To compile the list, Symantec tracked 3.5 million searches run by registered users.

While it’s possible some of the searches could have been carried out by adults while a computer was still in a child’s account mode, the overall list provides a pretty good indication of what kids are interested in when they approach the Internet.

In an interview with CNET News, Symantec Internet safety advocate Marian Merritt said she was less surprised by the results than some of her co-workers. "I think seeing how dominant the terms 'sex' and 'porn' are, that they come up well within the top 10, doesn't surprise me," said Merritt. "You go farther down the list, you see words of anatomy like 'boobs,' it almost makes you laugh because we remember what it was like to be a preteen or teen."

The appearance of YouTube at the top of the list is more of a concern. "Whenever I talk to children, all the way down to the kindergarten level, YouTube is one of the top three or four sites they go to," she explained. "They go to YouTube because they want to visually learn about something. The reason that's important for parents to understand is that there are challenges around making YouTube a safe environment for your children. It's not really designed for that."

Merritt also believes that 8 to 13 is the critical age range for promoting a responsible approach to the web. "A lot of parents think the most dangerous things their kids are going to encounter are when they're in high school, which is dead wrong," she noted. "If you can get your kids on a path of good Internet behavior when they're in elementary school before the critical middle 

Comment by Colleen McKenna, posted 8/14/2009, 9:39 AM:

I agree with Alex that it is the conversation that it the imporantant component here. But, without the insight into what my kids are searching for and curious about, I wouldn't know what to talk about. A product like onlinefamily.norton really allows me to be connected to what my kids are doing online and at the same time block and tackle where needed.
Comment by Alex Henning - kimaso.com, posted 8/13/2009, 4:20 PM:

I wonder how many of the parents are checking the monitoring software and talking to their children when something comes up. If you just block results and don't address them, children won't have good internet behavior when they're not being forced to by software.
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