Four colored balls now tell parents their children are protected against adult content while searching on Google, the search giant said last week. The balls appear at the top right of the screen when "strict" SafeSearch in enabled.
While much has been made of Google's holiday "gift" of free airport Wi-Fi, this new feature is likely to provide even more popular with teachers and parents. In addition, it is a gift that goes on giving long after free Wi-Fi ends on Jan. 15.
"Today we're launching a feature that lets you lock your SafeSearch setting to the Strict level of filtering," said Pete Lidwell and Aaron Arcos in a post to the company's official blog.
"When you lock SafeSearch, two things will change. First, you will need to enter your password to change the setting. Second, the Google search results page will be visibly different to indicate that SafeSearch is locked"
That change is the appearance of the four colored balls at the top right of the page, a clear indication to parents and teachers that can easily been seen from across the room. If the balls appear, strict SafeSearch is enabled, if not, it can be easily re-enabled with a password.
The feature was being enabled Tuesday and was not available to all users as this story was being posted.
SafeSearch is Google's technology for blocking adult content and images from its search results. The company admits the technology is imperfect, but it still does an excellent job of filtering adult content and, especially, images from Google results.
"No filter is 100 percent accurate, but SafeSearch should eliminate most inappropriate material," Google acknowledges on the SafeSearch help page.
"Strict" is one of three levels of content control available Google users. According to the company:
"You can choose from among three SafeSearch settings:
"Moderate filtering excludes most explicit images from Google Image Search results but doesn't filter ordinary web search results. This is your default SafeSearch setting; you will receive moderate filtering unless you change it.
"Strict filtering applies SafeSearch filtering to all your search results (i.e. both image search and ordinary web search).
"No filtering, as you've probably figured out, turns off SafeSearch filtering completely.
My take: Why has it taken Google so long to implement such a good idea? Parents and teachers need all the help they can get in monitoring children's Internet use. Colored balls, easily visible from across the room, will give adults greater assurance that their children are protected.
As I said, this is Google's best holiday present so far.