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Everything You Didn’t Know About (Safely!) Searching the Internet

Search Engine Safety

Michael Stone

Eugene Gan - published on 09/27/13

When it comes to finding on the Internet what you want (and avoiding what you shouldn't want), there's a wide range of options available. Are you getting the most out of Google?

I recognized that man is unable to find out all God’s work that is done under the sun, even
though neither by day nor by night do his eyes find rest in sleep. However much man toils in

searching, he does not find it out; and even if the wise man says that he knows, he is unable to find it out. ~ Ecclesiastes 8:17

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. ~ Matthew 13:45

Searching the Internet is such a common place activity now that we hardly give it much thought anymore. We even use the company name “Google” as a verb, as in “Just google it”. Sort of the modern equivalent of when we used the company name “Xerox” to mean “photocopy”. But is there more to googling than just typing our search terms into the search bar? I’m guessing most of you know how to refine your searches with various special characters. For example:

  • Use double quotes “” around your phrase if you want the exact phrase to be searched.
  • Use a minus – sign before a search term to exclude that search term.
  • Use a tilde ~ sign before a search term to find that word as well as similar words to your search term. Essentially, this gives you search results that include synonyms to your search term.
  • Use OR in between your search terms to search for one or the other search term. Without typing the OR, your search results tend to show webpages that match both search terms.  
  • Use an asterisk * as a wildcard or placeholder for any unknown word. For example, you might search “an * a day keeps the doctor away” if you forgot what the fruit was in that popular phrase.
  • Use two periods .. in between numbers to search for a range of numbers. For example, you might be looking for a digital camera within a certain price range, and so you can type: digital camera $100..$300
  • Use site: before a website URL to search within that website. For example, to search for references to the word ‘altar’ within Aleteia’s website, you would type "altar site:aleteia.org"

If you’re not familiar with any of these, just google it!

But indeed, there is more.

Did you know that you can type www.google.com/advanced_search (or make a bookmark to that link) and you’ll be provided a host of search controls to really refine your searches?

Did you also know that there’s a Google education site that teaches search skills (to get to this, type www.google.com/insidesearch/searcheducation/)?

Children and Search Engine Safety

This is all fine and great, but what if you have children who are of age to start using search engines? Search results can show adult websites (though there’s nothing ‘adult’ or ‘mature’ about them. We might as well call them what they really are: pornographic websites, and they are not appropriate for adults either). While you can subscribe to services that filter your web content, Google’s own SafeSearch is a quick and easy way to avoid content you may not want to stumble upon. Google says that SafeSearch “is designed to screen sites that contain sexually explicit content and remove them from your search results.”

To enable SafeSearch:

  1. Go to www.google.com/preferences
  2. In the "SafeSearch filters" section, check the box next to “Filter explicit results”
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Save”.

You can also easily enable safe search for YouTube:

  1. Go to www.youtube.com
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Safety:”
  3. Click the “On” radial button
  4. Then click “Save”.

SafeSearch should remain set as long as cookies are enabled, but if you delete your browser’s cookies, be aware that you may need to perform the above steps again to enable safe searching.

The Church’s documents on social communications encourages us to exercise and train our hearts so that we overcome inordinate desires to seek what is wrong. We’re not to be merely or

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