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SEARCH ENGINES

Search engines help you find the Web pages that contain the information you’re seeking. You can type specified words or phrases (a search query) into a search engine such as Google or AltaVista. The search engine then returns a number of links on its results page. To reach any of these results, you click on the link, which transfers you away from the search engine and into the Web page that corresponds to the link.

Given the enormous volume of information on the Web, search engines are invaluable in organizing, classifying, and returning results on queries. They’re the most common way of finding Web sites when users don’t have a URL. For kids, search engines are effective research tools for schoolwork and personal hobbies.

Caution!

  • Perhaps the most obvious way for a child or teen to access inappropriate material is by simply typing a word or phrase into a search engine. For example, just typing in “sex pic” into AltaVista.com’s search bar yields up many sites leading to extremely graphic “teaser” visuals aimed at attracting members.
  • Pornographic content can surface through harmless search queries. Search engines often create their listings by using software that “crawls” the Web, visiting, reviewing, and indexing sites based on information supplied by Web-site operators or webmasters. Some operators of adult-oriented Web sites take advantage of how search engines index content and label their sites so as to mislead the engines into selecting their site as a search result.
  • A child can get unwanted information by misspelling, entering the wrong search words, or using words that have both sexual and nonsexual meanings (for example, “beaver”).

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