You might have seen recent posts on Bing getting under attack because of the video preview feature, which works (obviously) for “normal” videos as well as for porn…

To be clear upfront: I am the daddy of two great sons at the age of 7 and 10, so at least the 10-year-old starts to get interested in such things.

Let’s start with the feature discussion first. I went to Bing’s video search engine and searched for a term which definitely will return porn content (I did not dare to do it on my Microsoft notebook – I did it on my private PC smile_embaressed). This is what happens:

2009,06%20-%20Safe%20Search[1]If I then click on “change” above, I see the default settings (which are preventing access to sexual explicit sites):

2009,06 - Safe Search 2 And, when I then want to change it to “off”, I get the following warning:

2009,06%20-%20Safe%20Search%203[1]  So far the facts as they are today. Now come the emotions and the discussions about what is good and what is bad. So, looking at my son, there are two scenarios we separate in our family:

  1. He wants to search content for his homework and stumbles upon sexual or any other inappropriate content: If he is protected then, that’s fine and this definitely helps. Bing covers this perfectly as he does not even think of turning the search filter off – in this scenario smile_wink.
  2. He wants to search sexual content: Well, there is a good chance that he will turn the filter off and ignore the warning. Let’s think about this for a moment: If we would hide it in the “options” or wherever, don’t you think it would just take an additional day at school to learn where he has to switch it off (if he even has to go to school to find that out)? To me it is just a false sense of safety if you think that you can protect your kid by hiding the option somewhere. I am convinced that we have to accept the fact that our kids are growing up in the digital age and (even with me) in certain areas know more about the technology than us.

So, I am definitely convinced that turning all the possible filters on will drive my kids to the neighbor's house to look at the same inappropriate pictures as the policies there might be less restrictive. Just to leave me in a wrong sense of safety and without any control about what is going on with my kids – which would be really, really bad.

From my point of view, this problem is part of the education of my kids. How do we raise them and what values are important to us. So, there are a few key tasks which are outside technology, which are the duty of parents (even though some tend to ignore this pretty often):

  • The kid’s PC has to be at a location where you can see from time to time, what they are doing. To me, if my son deliberately searches for porn (which is only one click away on the porn site anyway – where he has just to agree on being 18 as well), to me it is time to address the next step of his sexual education anyway.
  • Make sure that you show interest in what your kid is doing and accept the fact that he/she knows more than you. But let the kid educate yourself in such technologies. At least mine are pretty proud if there is something in this space he can show me I did not know.
  • Do not “pull the plug” as this will drive your kid to the neighbor’s house.

Yes, I know that the world is evil out there and that we all have to work together to fight illegal content on the Internet. There is child porn and child abuse and a lot of people (like me) are working everyday to reduce this disgusting phenomenon. You should not get me wrong: I definitely do not want to play something like this down. But on the other hand, I am convinced that we should not feel like we can solve these problems with technology. It is our duty as parents to raise our kids in a responsible manner – this cannot be done by better search filters or parental controls. I know that there are cultural differences across the globe but at the end of the day it might change the way you educate the kids but not the ultimate goal.

To finalize this post, let me add a few links:

  • Here is the link to the Bing blog talking about this: Smart Motion Preview and SafeSearch
  • If you want to know more how to protect your kids, check out our site on Protect Your Family. There is technology in there but a lot of age-dependant guidance most of it is about communicating with your kids.
  • On your local Microsoft site, you might find additional information, which is often done in collaboration with third-party organizations.

Now, let me add a final statement: The opinions shared in here are my personal opinions and might be challenged as such.

Roger