How to adjust SafeSearch settings for safer browsing

The internet is full of information, but some of it is inappropriate, especially for kids and sensitive adults. SafeSearch can help filter out this content(new window) to make browsing safer and improve your children’s privacy online(new window).

This article explains how SafeSearch can be enforced at work, school, and other places. It also shows how to manage SafeSearch settings, disable it when necessary, and take extra steps to create a secure online experience for you and your family.

What is SafeSearch?
How SafeSearch works(new window)
How to turn on SafeSearch on PC and mobile
How to turn off SafeSearch on computers
How to turn off SafeSearch on Android or iPhone
What are the risks of disabling SafeSearch?
Why won’t Google SafeSearch turn off?
Children are exposed to ads, even with SafeSearch
Secure your browsing experience with Proton VPN
Frequently asked questions

What is SafeSearch?

SafeSearch is a feature offered by search engines like Google and Bing to filter out explicit content from search results, such as pornography, violence, and other harmful material. 

Developed initially by Google, it helps prevent users from viewing inappropriate or harmful content while browsing the internet. SafeSearch is particularly useful for families and educational institutions, as it helps create a safer and more controlled online environment for children and students.

How SafeSearch works

SafeSearch uses automated systems(new window) with machine learning and various criteria to find explicit content, such as words on web pages, in links, metadata and tags, image recognition technology, and user feedback.

There are three modes when adjusting SafeSearch: SafeSearch on, SafeSearch off, and moderate filtering (blurs explicit images but not text or links). You can access SafeSearch at google.com/safesearch or from the Google app settings.

By default, SafeSearch blurs out explicit images for adults. For kids under 18, it turns on SafeSearch by default and doesn’t allow them to change this setting.

Google uses various methods to determine your age(new window), including the information provided in your Google account profile. For example, kids under 13 (or the applicable age in your country) whose Gmail accounts were created by a parent using Family Link(new window) will have SafeSearch automatically enabled. If you are over the age of consent and Google wrongly flagged your account, you will have to verify your age(new window) using a government ID, credit card, phone number, or selfie.

If you set up SafeSearch without logging into your Google account, the settings will only be saved on that browser. You’ll need to repeat the setup for each browser you use. If you set up SafeSearch while logged in to your Google account, the settings will be saved to your account and will work on all browsers and devices where you’re signed in to Google.

Google SafeSearch only filters content on Google Search. For example, if you enable SafeSearch on your child’s device, they can still access explicit content through other search engines. To prevent this, consider using parental control tools that block explicit content across all search engines, or manually enable similar safe search features on other search engines your child might use.

How to turn on SafeSearch on PC and mobile

  1. Open your web browser or Google app.
  2. Go to Google SafeSearch settings(new window) or tap your profile picture and select SafeSearch.
  3. Select Filter to filter out explicit images, links, and text.

How to turn off SafeSearch on computers

  1. Open your web browser.
  2. Go to Google SafeSearch settings(new window).
  3. Select Off to disable SafeSearch and include explicit content in your search results.

How to turn off SafeSearch on Android or iPhone

  1. Open the Google app.
  2. Tap your profile picture and go to SafeSearch.
  3. Select Off to show all relevant results, even if they’re explicit.

If you change your mind later, simply retrace your steps and set SafeSearch to Filter (blocks explicit images, text, and links) or Blur (obfuscates explicit images, but may display explicit text and links).

What are the risks of disabling SafeSearch?

While turning off SafeSearch may be useful for research or personal preferences, it’s important to weigh the risks, especially in environments with children or shared devices.

  • Accidental exposure: Explicit content such as adult entertainment, misinformation, hate speech, and extremist propaganda is inappropriate for children, certain seniors, or individuals sensitive to such material.
  • Psychological effects: Violent or disturbing content can cause(new window) stress, anxiety, or desensitization to violence.
  • Security risks: It increases the likelihood of accessing malware(new window) and phishing(new window) websites that can harm your device or steal personal information(new window).
  • Explicit ads and pop-ups(new window): These can disrupt your browsing experience and potentially lead to malicious websites.
  • Privacy risks: Unsafe or less reputable websites are more likely to use aggressive tracking technologies to monitor your browsing activity without your consent and collect your data for targeted advertising or to sell it to third parties.

Why won’t Google SafeSearch turn off?

If you’re having trouble turning off Google SafeSearch, there could be several reasons:

  • Browser cache and cookies: These might interfere with your ability to change settings on websites, including SafeSearch preferences. Try clearing your browser’s cache and cookies(new window).
  • Google account settings: Your Google account might have SafeSearch locked. Check if you’re logged into an account with these restrictions.
  • Device settings: SafeSearch settings may be controlled by the device’s settings, particularly on shared or family devices. For example, a parent or guardian can set up a child’s Google account through Family Link to enable SafeSearch on all apps and browsers used on their device.
  • VPN settings: A VPN configuration could be enforcing SafeSearch settings. For example, if you work from home and must use a VPN to connect to work sources, the administrator may have enabled SafeSearch by redirecting Google Search DNS queries to forcesafesearch.google.com.
  • Network administrator settings: Network administrators at schools, workplaces, or public networks often enforce SafeSearch to prevent access to inappropriate content.

Children are exposed to ads, even with SafeSearch

While Google has strict policies(new window) to protect children’s privacy by showing non-personalized ads and not sharing their personal information with advertisers, these protections only apply to ads served by Google itself.

Third-party ad providers may collect personal data and track children’s online activities, which can expose kids to inappropriate content and share their data without consent. Parents should use additional controls and stay vigilant to keep their children safe online.

Secure your browsing experience with Proton VPN

Using SafeSearch is not enough to create a safe browsing experience for yourself and your family. Proton VPN adds an extra layer of security by encrypting your internet traffic(new window) and protecting your privacy. Our NetShield(new window) feature blocks ads, trackers, and malware to prevent websites from collecting your data and protect your devices from harmful content.

Because VPNs encrypt your data, you must choose a provider you trust. Proton VPN has a strict no-logs policy(new window), meaning we don’t monitor, collect, or share any details about your online activity, IP addresses, or session lengths. This policy is supported by Swiss privacy laws(new window) and has been confirmed by independent audits(new window). We are also primarily owned by a nonprofit(new window) dedicated to promoting online privacy for all.

Sign up for a Proton VPN account and use it to protect up to 10 devices in your household.

Frequently asked questions

How do I turn off SafeSearch in Chrome?

1. Open Chrome.
2. Go to Google SafeSearch settings.
3. Select Off.

How to permanently keep SafeSearch on?

You can use Google Family Link to lock SafeSearch on devices or configure network DNS(new window) settings to map Google domains to forcesafesearch.google.com. Alternatively, you can use parental control software for content filtering in browsers, apps, or social media.

Can a VPN bypass SafeSearch?

You can use a VPN to bypass SafeSearch if it’s enforced at the network level(new window) by mapping Google domains to forcesafesearch.google.com. This is because a VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through its own servers, thus avoiding the local network’s DNS configurations and any enforced SafeSearch settings.
However, if SafeSearch is locked at the device or account level through tools like Family Link or Google Workspace for Education, a VPN will not be able to bypass these settings, as they are directly applied to the device or user account.

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