How to set Safe Search in Google to filter out adult content

Google is the most popular search engine in use on the Internet, and by visitors to this website – 90% of you get here from Google (hi!).  So let’s start here – next week I’ll cover Bing, and then Yahoo.  Follow these steps to ensure a “child-friendly” searching environment for your family.

If you have your computer set up with more than one user account, follow these steps for each user. However, if a child’s user account has something like Microsoft Family Safety parental controls enacted, Safe Search is already in place.  I would still run through these steps to make sure.

Also, if you use more than one web browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google, Chrome, or Safari) you’ll need to follow these steps in each browser.

First I’m going to show you how to set Google Safe Search on the computer.  Then I’ll explain how to do the same on a mobile device.

Enable Google Safe Search on your Computer

1. Go to Google and search for something.  I searched for piano tuners in New Hampshire.  On the search results page, you’ll see a “gear” icon over to the right.   Click the gear and choose Search Settings.

Google Search Settings

Click the gear and choose Search Settings


2. On the Search Settings page, put a checkmark next to “Filter Explicit Results“.   Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save.

Lock Safe Search to the strict setting

You can lock Safe Search to the “strict” setting if you have a Google account.  (If you use Gmail, upload videos to YouTube, or use Google+, you have a Google account.)  The lock means search settings cannot be changed without your Google password.  This prevents savvy kiddos from removing the filter.

1. On the Search Settings page, change the “SafeSearch” filters setting from Moderate to Strict.

2. Click “Lock SafeSearch” then log into your Google account.


3. Click “Lock Safe Search” and Google will start locking safe search in all Google domains.  You’ll see the progress and once it reaches 100% you’ll get a confirmation screen.

Lock Safe Search

Locking safe search in progress


Google Safe Search is locked

Confirmation screen - Google SafeSearch is locked


Now when you or the little ones perform a search, you’ll see the colored balls on the results page which indicates the strict filter is in place.

Try it!

Before you enable these settings, you may want to run a test to see how this works.  Before I changed the Google safe search setting to Strict, I searched for “topless dancers” and encountered plenty of flesh in the image results.

After locking Strict search, I searched again and got this message.

“The word “topless” has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active.”

Also the brightly colored icon and “SafeSearch is locked” message clearly show that strict filtering is in place.

Safe search is locked

Safe search is locked - indicated by the brightly colored balls in the corner


Enable Google Safe Search on a Mobile Device

In my opinion the best way to block adult-oriented content on a mobile web browser is to use a kid-safe browser.  On iPod touch and iPad you can restrict the default Safari browser, and install an alternative browser that already filters out adult content.  Choose from these kid-friendly browsers for iPod touch.

Other mobile devices, phones, and tablets may not have the same selection of kid-safe browsers.  If that’s the case, follow these steps to enable Strict Search in Google on a mobile device.  Note that on the mobile site you cannot LOCK the setting.  That’s why I recommend the kid-safe browsers.

These instructions and screenshots are using an iPhone, but should work about the same on an iPod touch or other mobile device.

1. Go to Google.

2. Scroll down and click Settings.

Click Settings on Google mobile

Click Settings on Google mobile


3. Select Strict.

Set the Strict filter on Google mobile

Set the Strict filter on Google mobile


4. Scroll down and click Save.  (Note again that in the mobile Google site, this setting cannot be locked.  You may be able to lock on a tablet; I tested on Kindle Fire and was able to lock strict search).

Save the strict setting on Google mobile

Save the strict setting

Compare the search results before and after.  (Yes that’s Prince Charles in the first picture.  Yes I added the blurred boxes to some of the images!)

Google mobile search with the moderate setting   Google mobile search with the strict setting


Give it a go – then leave a comment and let me know how this worked with your before and after searches!


More about SafeSearch in Google:




About Jean

Hi! I'm a webmaster, technology educator and creator of Be Web Smart. I hope you found this article useful. If you are new here, you might like to sign up for e-mail updates, view Links and Resources on similar topics, and subscribe to the RSS feed.