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Google Missing Golden Opportunity to Win Friends, Families.

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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • edythemighty 28 December 2009, 5:01 pm

    How’s about we build a better search engine that doesn’t rely on Google flawed pagerank algorithm? How’s about a search engine that actually gives you a structured definition of the word, taken from various sources of the internets, and then links to those sources?

    • PurpleCar 28 December 2009, 5:05 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Edy.

      I love me the semantic web and customized search as much as the next guy, but what do we do until then? Also, kids use Google. It would take a while for us all to get ourselves weaned off Google, especially the less-than-7-years-old set. And this really is about Google squeezing the good karma juice out of this, and Symantec making some money.



  • Mike 28 December 2009, 5:43 pm

    Google actually does link to the definition of the search word, over on the right-hand side of the page. But in the context of your point, it’s really not the first thing a user’s eyes are drawn to. They could make it more prominent. Click that link, it takes the user to Google’s own dictionary, where a definition with no pictures is shown.

    • PurpleCar 28 December 2009, 5:55 pm


      Thanks for pointing that out. I didn’t see it, and I’m sure the little ones don’t either. They should just move it to the top. What’s so hard?
      They’d still miss a good tax shelter (donate space to an educational non-profit or a .gov site) if they just linked to their own definition, but moving it to the top to a sponsored link position would be a great thing.

      Thanks for catching what I didn’t!