Over the last 20 years, the Internet has grown from an exciting new development to become our main source of information. But for our children, the Internet is arguably even more important.
From a young age, kids are surrounded by the Internet as it takes on an increasingly prominent role in schools. But how do children navigate their way through all this information?
For young children in particular, Google is not the answer. It is too open. Too adult. Amsterdam startup WizeNoze is keen to provide a friendlier, safer, age-specific alternative.
Jouw Zoekmachine — Your Search Engine
One of the products that WizeNoze has developed is a search engine that indexes child-friendly information. Jouw Zoekmachine (Your Search Engine) was launched at the start of this school year as a beta.
The child-friendly search engine is already being actively used in education at the Steve Jobs schools set up by Maurice de Hond. Jouw Zoekmachine is also being integrated into tablets made specifically for children by the company Kurio.
It’s time for change. We want to challenge the status quo with our technology
According to WizeNoze, the solutions proposed up until now have been addressing the problem from the wrong angle: “The builders of the current online information society focus on preventing children from accessing information. We have seen a prevalence of products with filters and parental controls that block content that is not suitable for children.
“These are positive developments, but they don’t improve the quality and accessibility of the information that filters through. It’s time for change. We challenge the status quo with our technology.”
The Dutch School TV, WWF Rangerclub, Kennislink and Kijk archives are some of those included in the WizeNose search engine. Paid sources, sites featuring a lot of advertising or those that offer products or services for sale are left out of search results.
Search results are appropriate for their target audience
The level of all filtered content is then classified using an algorithm that performs a linguistic analysis. The information provided starts at a level that children in the first few school year groups can understand, gradually increasing in complexity to a level suitable for pupils of higher school ages.
Children who use the search engine are required to specify their school year before they begin searching, meaning that the results can be tailored to their aptitude. Search results are also presented in a way that is appropriate for the target audience.
At the base level, for example, photos account for a high proportion of the results and there is little text. At higher levels, text becomes more of a focus.
The WizeNose Content Editor
This summer, WizeNoze received an investment of 1.75 million euros from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and two private investors. Since then, the company has received a lot of media attention for its search engine, but the business wants to do more than just be a search provider.
The Content Editor will be able to summarise long chunks of text
The WizeNoze algorithm that’s being used to analyse the reading level of text can also be used to help companies to write better content for children. WizeNoze has built a Content Editor based on this algorithm, an application designed to flag up a number of factors, including sentences that are too long and words that are beyond the vocabulary of a certain target group. It also provides suggestions for words to be replaced by synonyms that children can understand.
Soon, the application will be able to provide suggestions on how to simplify whole sentences. In addition, the Content Editor is also able to summarise longer texts.
The Content Editor is more than just a useful tool. Ultimately, WizeNoze wants to use this solution as a source of revenue. The company’s goal is to continue to offer the search engine free of charge and ad-free, funded by money generated through the Content Editor.
The company has one over-arching, noble aim: “Our ambition is to provide children with access to age-appropriate and skills-based content in a child-friendly way — here in The Netherlands, in Europe and worldwide.
We want to achieve this by offering scalable solutions for businesses and organizations looking to communicate with children: from theme parks to educational publishers, and from the media to the retail sector.”
WizeNoze has global ambitions, and the company is already tentatively looking to develop algorithms capable of analyzing the English language. For the time being, however, WizeNoze remains focused on the Dutch market.