Safe Search

Should you disable safe search? Learn what the safe search is, how you can protect yourself online and if you should ever turn off safe search.

SafeSearch settings and how to turn off Safe Search 

The openness of the Internet can be something of a double-edged sword. Although the free nature of the web fosters creativity, thought, and access to uncensored information, it also allows the manifestation of potentially unsafe content.

It’s an open secret that pornography, gore, extreme violence, and other graphic content are accessible with just a few deliberate or accidental clicks.

Such content can be harmful to children. Exposure to violent or pornographic media can negatively impact the psychological and physical development of people with growing, elastic, and impressionable minds that lack the maturity to process extreme content. Such content can also be distasteful to many adults.

Policing the web isn’t the solution, of course. Not only is shutting down every website that publishes explicit content impossible, but it raises questions about freedom of expression. The mere definition of distasteful content varies from person to person.

Denying young users access to the Internet isn’t a solution either. The information superhighway is a valuable teaching tool. For example, most K-12 teachers:

•        Utilize technology to teach kids in classrooms every day.

•        Allow students to research subjects using the Internet.

•        Employ games and simulations as teaching aids.

•        Use laptops in classrooms.

It’s easy to see why the Internet is a powerful educational resource. It offers children of all ages the most relevant, up-to-date, engaging, and fastest learning and research methods.

Instead of blocking people from the Internet or technology, parents, teachers, and administrators use SafeSearch settings on Google to filter explicit search results. With SafeSearch, you can stop yourself, your child, or your student from seeing inappropriate content from Google search results. For instance, with SafeSearch on, users are less likely to find explicit content when searching for words like “hooter.”.

SafeSearch isn’t without its shortcomings, though. For one, it’s not a comprehensive security tool. That’s why, in addition to learning how to use SafeSearch settings, people download a utility like Browser Guard to block unsafe content.

Moreover, SafeSearch can block content adults legitimately want to see. That’s why it’s important to learn how to turn on SafeSearch and how to turn off SafeSearch. In this article, we’ll explain what SafeSearch does and doesn’t do. For example, SafeSearch shields you from pornographic or violent videos, images, and websites, but it won’t stop malware — for that, you’ll need a free antivirus download.

What is SafeSearch

So, what is SafeSearch, then? Well, Google SafeSearch is an automated filter that blocks explicit content such as pornography, violence, and gore from appearing in search results. You can activate SafeSearch for the following:

  1. Personal accounts
  2. Browsers
  3. Kid’s devices and accounts through the Family Link app
  4. Workplace devices and networks
  5. School devices and networks.

Google SafeSearch only filters Google search results and not other search engines. It also doesn’t prevent users from opening bookmarks, links, and emails that lead to explicit content. Google SafeSearch filters aren’t completely accurate, either.

While SafeSearch is strictly a Google feature, other search engines and apps can have their own safety features.

How does SafeSearch work?

Just like your water filter blocks impurities, allowing only safe water to pass through for consumption, SafeSearch blocks explicit content to clean search results. When you learn how to turn SafeSearch on, you essentially learn how to stop Google from displaying pornographic or violent content. 

SafeSearch may sometimes filter content that it shouldn’t. For example, “Anas” also spelled “Anus” is an Arabic name that a search filter may mistakenly block when misinterpreting the context.

How to turn on SafeSearch

1.      Log into your Google Account.

2.      Go to the Google homepage.

3.      Click Settings at the bottom right of your screen.

4.      Tick the box next to Turn on SafeSearch.

How to turn off SafeSearch permanently

1.      Log into your Google Account.

2.      Go to the Google homepage.

3.      Click Settings at the bottom right of your screen.

4.      Untick the box next to Turn on SafeSearch.

How to lock SafeSearch

Locking SafeSearch used to be a straightforward task, but you can no longer lock SafeSearch through a Google account. Google says that network managers can force SafeSearch on all browsers on their networks by applying the SafeSearch Virtual IP address to all Google domains included in the configuration. The DNS entry for www.google.com and other Google domains must be set to be a CNAME for forcesafesearch.google.com.

How to change or update SafeSearch settings

How to turn off SafeSearch on Android

SafeSearch settings Android via Google App

1.      Open the Google App on your Android device.

2.      Tap your Profile Picture.

3.      Tap Settings.

4.      Turn Explicit results filter off.

SafeSearch settings Android via browser

1.      Go to SafeSearch settings on your Android device.

2.      Turn off Explicit results filter.

How to turn off SafeSearch on computer 

You can use the Settings option on the Google homepage and deactivate SafeSearch. Alternatively, go to SafeSearch settings and turn off Explicit results filter.

How to turn off SafeSearch on iPhone or iOS device

SafeSearch settings iOS via Google App

1.      Open the Google App on your iPhone or iOS device.

2.      Tap your Profile Picture.

3.      Tap Settings.

4.      Turn Explicit results filter off.

SafeSearch settings iOS via browser

3.      Go to SafeSearch settings on your iPhone or iOS device.

4.      Turn off Explicit results filter.

How to turn off SafeSearch on Twitter

After searching for something on Twitter:

                 1.      Click the three dots next to the search bar.

                 2.      Click Search settings on the menu. You can untick the boxes next to Hide sensitive content and Remove blocked and muted accounts to clear Twitter search filters.

                 3.      Prepare yourself for a more distasteful version of Twitter.

Why can't I change my SafeSearch settings 

If you manage your own Google Account or network, you can turn SafeSearch on or off. However, there are some situations where you may be unable to change SafeSearch settings:

  1. Device or network settings: A WiFi network, antivirus software, operating system, or network administrator may override your personal SafeSearch settings.
  2. Authority: An authority like a parent, school, or office may have activated SafeSearch.
  3. Browser: Safety settings and extensions for browsers may force SafeSearch.

Why people turn off SafeSearch

Turning off SafeSearch stops Google from filtering out explicit content. People may turn off SafeSearch to consume potentially explicit content or stop the filter from blocking legitimate content. Many users who don’t consume explicit content still keep SafeSearch off because they don’t need protection or don’t share their computers with children.

When SafeSearch won't turn off

You may need to know the password to your Google account to turn SafeSearch off. Alternatively, you can sign out and create another account with SafeSearch deactivated.

You can’t turn SafeSearch off if a network administrator has activated the feature. Many offices, schools, and Internet cafes activate SafeSearch for all users on their networks. Individuals can’t turn SafeSearch off on these networks from their Google settings, browser, or device settings.

Why you should always use SafeSearch

Users use SafeSearch to protect themselves or others from potentially disturbing content. Let’s look at some of the common reasons for using SafeSearch settings:

Explicit results 

The most common reason for using SafeSearch is to block explicit results such as sexual content. Some words can have dual meanings because of euphemisms. For example, when you search Google for images of “hot knockers,” you’ll notice highly contrasting results when SafeSearch is off instead of on.

At the very least, blocking explicit content reduces distractions for college students and office workers. Instead of searching for explicit media, users can concentrate on work. 

Inappropriate or triggering material 

The SafeSearch filter can block extreme drug-related content, violence, gore, and even sexual violence. Not only is such content psychologically disturbing for the average user, but it can also be highly triggering for survivors of abuse or recovering addicts.

Extremism 

Extremists like terrorists use the Internet to spread propaganda and recruit impressionable young people to their cause. Moreover, they publish violent videos and images on the Internet for shock value. SafeSearch tools can shield viewers from extremist content that may harm their psyche. 

Unsafe child browsing 

Children in the modern era use desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets to consume entertainment, learn and communicate. Their curiosity for knowledge should never be hindered by potentially scarring content. SafeSearch can help make the Internet safer for children.

Of course, even with SafeSearch on, it’s a good idea to monitor the content your children are consuming, as technology can make mistakes too. An example of this is when YouTube flagged a horror short show as suitable for children — to the horror of their parents.

Unprotected personal information 

Revenge porn is when bad actors distribute sexually explicit images or videos of people without their consent on the Internet to humiliate them. Victims of this type of harassment can suffer life-altering consequences. SafeSearch filters can play a small role in protecting their privacy by blocking such content. 

Legal compliance 

Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000 to shield children from obscene or harmful content on the Internet. CIPA dictates that schools and libraries leverage Internet and web filters to prevent children from seeing unsafe content. CIPA incentivizes protective action by offering federal funding.

Online Safety Tips to Protect Your Privacy

Although SafeSearch is a valuable tool, its scope is limited. It only stops search engines from displaying explicit content and isn’t designed as a privacy tool. For private browsing, please learn how to use private browsing mode, also known as Incognito mode. You could also try a privacy search engine instead of Google, like Brave Search. Launched by Mozilla alumni Brendan Eich and Brian Bondy, the Chromium-based internet browser automatically blocks ads and site trackers.

Use VPN 

Users who want to take their online privacy to the next level sometimes subscribe to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) - read more here about what is VPN. A top privacy VPN takes multiple steps to enhance your privacy. It starts by routing your traffic through an encrypted tunnel that leaves your data unreadable to hackers. In addition, it covers your IP address with a different one to stop snoopers from seeing your actual location.

Anti-malware software is another cybersecurity tool that can defend your privacy. It will hunt and remediate malware like spyware, Trojan password-stealers, keyloggers, and stalkerware. These sneaky kinds of malicious software can spy on you and your family.

Use Browser Guard 

Although SafeSearch stops potentially unsafe content from appearing in your searches, it won’t prevent you from clicking malicious links that open unsafe websites. Try an extension like Browser Guard to block malicious web pages and unwanted and unsafe content. Browser Guard also protects your privacy by blocking third-party trackers and ads that trace you across the Internet to bombard you with the same advertising campaign repeatedly.

Educate your family 

While cybersecurity mechanisms like SafeSearch, antivirus software, firewalls, and a VPN can protect your family, cybersecurity education is equally important. Teach your children to utilize strong passwords to secure their accounts. They should also know the dangers of sharing private information on social media. And just like in real life, children must be wary of strangers on the Internet.

Secure all devices 

Families should practice good cybersecurity hygiene on all devices, not just PCs. For example, you can check out how to securely set up an Android for your kids. Likewise, learn how to secure your Mac for your kids to protect them from attacks that target vulnerable people. 

With Mac threats rising, a Mac adware cleaner is also an essential tool. So, what is Mac adware cleaner, and how does it protect your privacy? In a nutshell, this fast and light tool removes adware, browser hijackers, spyware, and other unwanted programs (PUPs) from Macs that breach privacy.

SafeSearch is a vital feature that prevents users from seeing potentially unsettling websites, images, and videos. Use it to prevent kids from being exposed to content they’re not ready to handle. But also, learn to turn SafeSearch off when you don’t need it if you wish to consume content unhindered by filters.

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