Adult links mar children's search engine

An Australian portal for children has been embarrassed by search results that point to bikini-clad women

The creator of a child-oriented search Web site has pulled advertising material generated externally and removed search functions that provide lists of highly inappropriate words.

The Web site's creator, Nathan Rose, had been left red-faced after visitors to the site found an advertising link to a screensaver Web site that featured bikini-clad women in seductive poses, while the search function listed some highly inappropriate words under related searches if fairly mild slang terms were entered.

Rose said that since his discussions with ZDNet Australia, he had pulled all advertising material generated externally, "leaving only advertising material that we control," and had also removed the related search function.

Rose said earlier advertising companies (Google and a local company) were supposedly tasked with filtering inappropriate advertising material from the Web site, www.kids.net.au. However, sometimes some adult materials make it onto the site, Rose said.

He added that it is difficult to keep track of what ads go up and that the site immediately blocks the advertiser if inappropriate content is detected.

Kids.net.au is a searchable database of more than 25,000 sites specifically designed for kids that also contains an English dictionary and a thesaurus.

Rose, a 23 year-old university student, created the search engine in his spare time between studying management at the University of Western Sydney and volunteering at Sydney's Children Hospital.

"I conceived the idea of a kids-safe search engine through my involvement with children at the hospital, and while taking an IT sub-major at University. I was checking the domain name and found out that it was not registered so I decided to register it and do something about it," Rose said.

The site was put up 18 months ago but was officially launched this week after Rose claimed that he had finally removed bugs and because of the feedback that he had received from kids, teachers, parents and educators. Kids.net.au is now receiving more than 30,000 visits a day from children all around the world.

"We have been getting hits from Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, China and even some from Iraq and Iran, the broad response is amazing," Rose said.

All 25,000 sites within the directory have been arranged into categories for easy navigation. In addition, sites have been added to the search engine with regard not only to safety but also to how appealing they are to children.

"The aim was to create an Internet site that would provide an environment for children that was not only safe from unsuitable content but that also contained Web sites designed specially for kids; Web sites kids would actually like to visit," Rose said.

Rose is planning to focus on children's media after University and is hoping the Web site will be the start of his career in this field.

"Hopefully, I can make this my career. I've always been interested in kid's media. I can get some experience here and do more commercial sites for kids later on," Rose said.

For more coverage on ZDNet Australia, click here.

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