According to Symantec, “Porn” is a term most searched on the internet by children less than 7 years old. This means many things, but one thing I’ve been thinking about is that an astoundingly awesome “good-karma” opportunity for Google and Symantec is fading away as we speak.
Symantec collects data on millions’ of users search habits. Their service, OnlineFamily.Norton, is a web monitoring service where parents can create profiles for each child and monitor their online activities. The company has mined data on millions of searches performed by the children who have Norton profiles. Symantec has amassed the data into a report. Symantec doesn’t reveal the number of children who have profiles, but the mere number of searches mined (over 14 million) lends us the information that Symantec must have many thousands of children’s profiles in their system (I trust these data and the sample. As a researcher, I think these data represent the general population fairly accurately).
For kids reported to Symantec as being under 7 years of age, the term “Porn” is #4 most popular on the list. Does this mean that children are hyper-sexualized? No. It means that kids are using the internet to look up definitions of words they hear. They don’t want an example of pornography; they want to know what the word means. They are afraid to ask in fear of “getting in trouble,” so they do what they know how to do: they stick the term into a search bar. Much research shows that although small children can be curious about sex and pornography, healthy young children tend to avoid interacting with adult x-rated media. Wake up and smell the opportunity, Google and Symantec!
These are the results from today’s Google search on the term “porn.”
Notice the lack of plain definitions anywhere. Google, Symantec and perhaps Merriam-Webster are missing a golden opportunity to better the world and to get some great press. They should gather forces to ensure that the top search result for “porn” links to an informative but simple definition of the term. (I’d suggest linking to Wikipedia, but the entry for “Pornography” isn’t appropriate for young children. If Wikipedia could get the image off the entry and lock down any editing, the site may have a fighting chance to get in on this American PR Dream.) If they can throw in a few quotes about kids’ behavior from a psychologist or a prominent internet researcher like danah boyd, I’m sure Main Stream Media would pick up the story. Mothers everywhere would feel all warm and fuzzy inside, Google would boost its reputation as THE 1-stop family shop for searching, and Symantec would sell a bunch more products.
You may counter my idea with Google’s claimed practice of not manipulating search results. This is easy to fix: Google could sell or donate the “sponsored link” at the top of the search results page. Google could commit to selling or donating that particular sponsored link to only educational sites like Merriam-Webster or Carnegie-Mellon University. Merriam-Webster or Carnegie-Mellon could use the space to not only define the term but link to their other educational resources.
Do how about it, guys? When opportunity this great knocks, I’m surprised it’s taking so long to answer the door!
Let me know what you think in the comments.