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Google wants my children!

April 15th, 2004 · 2 Comments

My first thought as I entered the library, walked past the fish tank and spied the silver e.encyclopedia displayed on a table with the prominent Google logo in the corner. Branding items for babies is nothing new. Plenty of companies try to attract consumers from the cradle. But a search engine seeking children?!


Curious, I took the book home with us. For its credit, it has fantastic graphics, pages filled with photos. Any kid would have fun flipping through the topics, from Dance (featuring a whirling dervish) to Aztecs (temple of death) to Literature (Persephone and Ann Frank on the same page), Cinema (Hans Solo, Titanic and The Terminator) Heat (Thermal imaging) Digestion (velvety villi) and the Solar System and Sun ( cut into the core) So what’s the link to Google?

Each page features a key word to be typed into the site: http://www.dke-encyc.com/
This site serves as a mini search engine for these Google-addicts-in-training – uh, children – bringing up a handful of links to related sites. Let Google direct you to more great sites about your subject

The girls and I have tried a few topics from the book on the site. The mini-search engine itself seems rather safe. I entered “sex” but it replied with “no results”. The descriptions of human reproduction begin at the cellular level. Warnings in the book caution “always get permission from an adult before connecting to the Internet.”

What surprised me was how boring the site www.dke-encyc.com was. That is, it only provided a few links for each topic, and those seemed to be the same top ones Google generated independently. Of course. No big surprise. It’s Google’s book. But the girls were asking me why we were at “the same” sites. They got bored. I think they too had hoped to find new links from this book-search-engine project. Instead we ended up at sites we had seen before from doing Google searches on the same topics. Some links were repeated between topics.

When I first picked up the book I had wondered whether Google had built a separate search engine with custom pages of answers for this e.encyclopedia. But all they did was select a few decent links from a Google search in response to each topic. In that sense, it isn’t exciting and it isn’t safe either, because kids are sent out sailing into the open Internet sea and could quickly click themselves into dangerous waters…

We’ve still got a week worth of e.encyclopedia to enjoy before it goes back to the library. When I checked it out I told the staff member at the circulation desk – who knows me by my first name – that I was skeptical. Anything with the name Google on it?! I know better than to accept any definition that this – or any – search engine gives as fact. What did they want with my children?

What they want with my children is to get them addicted to search engines young. To get my girls hooked on Google. Brand them young and soon with the first taste of freedom and fun on the Net.

I’ll let my kids learn to look topics up on the Web. I won’t shelter them from search engines. But my girls have got a lot to learn about life and ways to be wise before I’ll let them go it alone with Google….elegant enticing e.encyclopedia or not…

Tags: geek

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa Williams // Apr 15, 2004 at 11:27 am

    I really like Wikipedia. It’s less controlled than the google-sponsored e-encyclopedia, but with some supervision I think it could be used by kids.

    One thing I think would be really great is if people could use Wikipedia headings as their own subject hierarchy on their blogs. Then, when you went to a Wikipedia entry, there’d be a huge list of links at the bottom saying “these blog entries reference this topic” and we’d have a huge, worldwide encyclopedia that grew every day.

  • 2 Daisy // Apr 22, 2004 at 10:10 pm

    For a little more fun, check out http://www.urbandictionary.com. You can add your own definitions of terms [mainly slang]and recommend others be removed. I tried to get all of the derogatory definitions of blog off of there but didn’t succeed as much as I would have liked. I did get some off though!