What is SafeSearch filtering, and what can it do?

Anton P. | October 23, 2023

SafeSearch is a Google search engine feature that gives you control over what you see in your search results. Specifically, it can filter out some of the explicit and offensive content from your search.

This feature might be responsible if you do not get some expected and relevant results from your searches. Thus, below, you will also find instructions on how to turn off SafeSearch when needed.

SafeSearch filtering blurs or completely filters out potentially harmful or offensive content from the search results page

What is SafeSearch?

SafeSearch is the name for Google's explicit results filter. It removes or blurs sexually explicit, offensive, or violent content from Google search results.

Other search engines also offer various safe search options. However, as Google dominates the search engine market with over 83% market share, its SafeSearch feature deserves special attention.

What is its purpose?

Generally, SafeSearch promotes online safety for everyone. A network administrator can turn it on for all devices to protect network users from visiting harmful websites. Any internet user might switch SafeSearch on to stay away from offensive content. 

The primary purpose of SafeSearch, however, is to protect children from adult content. It allows maintaining parental control over what can be found online using your child's Google account.

How does SafeSearch work?

SafeSearch filters Google's search results page to block or blur explicit content. When you open the SafeSearch settings of your Google account, you have three options to choose from:

  • Filter. If you select this option, Google automatically filters out textual or visual content and links it identifies as explicit.
  • Blur. After choosing this option, Google will attempt to blur explicit imagery. However, text and links will remain the same.
  • Off. This option means that SafeSearch is turned off, and you will see all relevant results, even if they are explicit.

The Quick Settings button (gear icon) resides on the top right corner of the Google search results page. By clicking it, you can check and change your SafeSearch settings. 

Every time you search for something on Google, SafeSearch will modify search results according to your chosen option.

Private Christmas & a safe New Year!


Using SafeSearch

You can turn SafeSearch on and off according to your preferences for the Google account that you manage. If you manage someone else's account, you can also lock SafeSearch so the user cannot change the settings.

Turn SafeSearch on and off

SafeSearch default setting is Off. If Google's system indicates that you are underage, SafeSearch will be on Filter by default. On your computer, you can turn SafeSearch off or on by going to your SafeSearch settings as described above. 

Android and iOS users take the very same steps to change SafeSearch settings:

  1. Open the Google app.
  2. Tap your profile picture or initials at the top right corner.
  3. Select Settings and then SafeSearch.
  4. Choose your SafeSearch setting from the options Filter, Blur, and Off.

If you cannot change the settings, look at the top right corner. Is there a lock symbol there? If there is, your SafeSearch settings are locked. This means that only your parents, network administrator, or whoever is managing your Google account can change the settings.

Locking SafeSearch

Google Workspace administrators can use the Admin console to lock SafeSearch for all other accounts in the network. Admin console also provides options to differentiate SafeSearch settings based on the user's age. 

Parents and legal guardians can lock SafeSearch on underage children's accounts. In order to manage a child's Google search results, you will need to create a Google account for them and have one yourself.

You can easily set up parental controls on your child's Android device:

  1. Open Settings on your child's device.
  2. Go to Google and then Parental controls.
  3. Press Get started, then Child or Teen, and Next.
  4. Choose your child's Google account. If they do not have an account yet, create one for them.
  5. Tap Next and sign in with your own account that will be used for supervising.
  6. Follow the instructions on the screen to set up supervision for your child's account.

Setting up supervision on non-Android devices requires knowing your child's email address and password.

After setting up supervision, you can download Google's Family Link app. The app lets you remotely control your child's SafeSearch settings and enables further parental oversight.

Further improve searching and browsing

Here are tips to make your searching and browsing online even more secure:

  • Use a VPN when connecting to untrusted networks. Browsing on public Wi-Fi or connecting to the internet in an unfamiliar location is always a security risk. A VPN helps keep your data protected by encrypting all your traffic.
  • Use the Atlas Shield feature. Atlas Shield provides an additional layer of security for VPN users. It will block websites that distribute ransomware, spyware, cryptojacking, and other online threats while you browse.
  • Turn off tracking cookies. Websites use cookies to log your actions. Some cookies are so invasive that they continue to track you even outside of the website where they originated. Turning off cookies in your browser or using additional software tools to block tracking helps you stay protected and private online.

These browsing solutions help users make the most of the internet while managing its risks.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.


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