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The Kids' Guide to Google Search

Common Sense Media logo Common Sense Media 5/28/2014 Taryn Degnan

Every kid knows how to Google, but do they know how to Google well? A wealth of built-in -- but sometimes hidden -- features can help kids find the information they need much more efficiently than their usual shot-in-the-dark searches. A little Google technique can open up a world of trusted facts, homework boosters, and cool tricks to impress their friends (or their parents).

Find the Hidden Calculator
If number crunching just isn't your kid's thing -- and he needs a fast answer -- Google's hidden calculator is a lifesaver. Head straight to the search bar and type in the problem or equation you're looking to solve. You'll know you've gotten to the right place when a gray, calculator-like tool pops up as the search result.

Bonus tip: How many teaspoons equal a tablespoon? When the homework is put away and you need an extra hand with dinner prep, this tool converts measurements, too.

Definitions and More
Browsing the Merriam-Webster dictionary for hours might be a lost art, but broadening kids' vocab doesn't have to be. Simply add the word "define" before a search term (for example, "define onomatopoeia") to bring up the proper spelling, definition, origin, and even fun tools like voice and translation options.

Bonus tip: If your kid struggles with spelling, don't worry. Google will suggest and search based on the appropriate spelling of most words, just as it does for regular searches.

Age-Appropriate Results

  • Tools like Google SafeSearch and YouTube's Safety Mode can help filter out mature content that's beyond what your kids are ready to see or read. You can also take it a step further and filter search results by reading level so they feel comfortable with what's in front of them. Let Google annotate the results with reading levels labeled, or choose to only show basic, intermediate, or advanced level content.
  • Older kids looking for credible information -- or their first taste of scholarly research -- can check out Google's academic offshoot, Google Scholar.
    Bonus tip: Let your kids explore with confidence and teach them to view content critically. Just because they see it online doesn't mean it's true.

Sports Schedules
Wondering how fast you need to finish homework to catch the Giants game tonight? Get schedules and scores for your favorite NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB teams by typing the team or league into the search box.

Bonus tip: Brush up on sports trivia! The right side of your search results page is a mix of team roster info, Wikipedia facts, and recent Google+ posts from the team itself.

Time-Zone Challenged?
If you have far-flung family and don't want to wake them up in the middle of the night, you can find the local time anywhere in the world by typing "time" and a city's name into the search bar.

The Perfect Search

  • Let's say the homework assignment requires you to use only one source of information. Enter your query, followed by the url for the website (i.e. best math apps site: and hit enter. You'll see only results from that website.
  • Need help with American history homework but getting search results for American History X? Add a minus sign before the "x" to eliminate movie-related results.

Photo Magic
Learning how to attribute photos is a critical research skill. With Google Reverse Image Search, you can upload any photo to Google Images and hit "search" to find the name of it, and a whole lot more.

Bonus tip: In Google's Chrome browser, you can just right-click on any image and select "search Google for this image." There's a Firefox add-on, too.

Just for Fun
If all you really need is a little distraction, go to Google and type in "tilt," browse the Google Doodle archives, or just tell Google to do a barrel roll. You won't be disappointed.


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