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How to lock SafeSearch in Google

One of the biggest problems facing parents as their children start to use computers is the number of inappropriate web sites and links that can be generated from a seemingly innocent Web search. And it's not just kids with curious minds who are at risk. All it takes is one typo in the seach box, and your child could be a click away from viewing sexually explicit images.

Thankfully, most search engines now have built-in tools that can block sites containing adult material. On Google, that tool is called SafeSearch. While no filter in 100% accurate, SafeSearch does an excellent job of screening out the vast majority of objectionable sites.

It also has a locking feature, which will prevent your child from accidentally or intentionally disabling SafeSearch. Once Lock SafeSearch is activated, Google will display brightly colored balls at the top of every search page, so parents can see from across a room that the controls are on.

Here's how it works:

  1. From the Google home page, click on Settings in the top right corner and and then choose Search Settings.
  2. Scroll down the page until you see SafeSeach Filtering. Click on Lock SafeSearch.
  3. This will automatically apply the Strict Filtering setting, which will block explicit text and images.
  4. If you're not already signed in to your Google Account, you'll be prompted to sign in. (Don't have a Google Account? You can create one.)
  5. Once you're signed in, click Lock SafeSearch. This step will take a moment, as strict filtering is being applied across all Google domains.
  6. You will then see a confirmation page once the lock is engaged.

Check out the video for a visual demonstration of how it works.

There are still some limitations. If you want to activate SafeSearch on multiple profiles on the same computer, then you will need to set the lock for each individual profile. Also, if the computer is running more than one browser, for example Internet Explorer and Firefox, then SafeSearch would have to be locked individually for each browser. Make sure that your browser is set to allow cookies.

If you have multiple users on a computer, then it might be a bit complicated to remember which accounts have filter locking in place and which don't. But that's the beauty of the colored balls: one glance at a Google search screen will tell you whether Lock SafeSearch has been activated.

Google SafeSearch isn't a substitute for good Internet rules and parental guidance, but it can offer some much-needed peace-of-mind.

Comment by Sarah Franks, posted 5/22/2011, 5:34 PM:

I have been looking for a way to lock safe search and family filters on for ages. My kids are pretty smart and worked out clearing cookies can turn safe mode off! They also like Safari and I use Internet Explorer. It was a mine field. After lots of searching I found some software which does the job automatically so thought you might want to try it: http://www.safesearchlock.com It seems to work with all the browsers, Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube etc. Its given me a bit more peace of mind anyway.
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