Google Images - Do not assign student searches through Google Images

Please be aware: content filters cannot block objectionable images. The filters block based on text, including text associated with images. However, if the text is not on the blocking list, the image can come through the firewall, even if it is considered pornographic. There is no fool-proof way for the firewall to know if the image is objectionable or not. Also, searches conducted in foreign languages can bypass the filters. Students must be monitored at all times while using computers. Do not rely on the firewall to block everything that comes through on a search engine.

Think about why you are asking students to search for images. Is it to enhance a report or project? What is the source? Who is the rightful owner of the image? How is the student providing proper attribution to the source?

As rightful subscribers to Microsoft software, we have access to a vast library of images through the online clip art section of the software. If you do not know how to access this, please contact me and I'll be happy to go through the steps with you.

These are a few sites that offer safe-search engines and methods for students. While sites are screened, they are also not 100% safe. If you know of others, please share them with me and I will post so that everyone can access them.

The main reasons that Google Image Search is not appropriate for students:

  1. Our filtering system cannot block all objectionable content. Relying on the filter system is not a safe practice. While most searches may yield acceptable results, it’s impossible to predict when an objectionable image may appear. We do get reports from teachers that students have accessed inappropriate material. It does happen and quite possibly more often than we are aware.
  2. The filter system also doesn’t work if other languages are used in the search. While Google’s Safe Search function does attempt to screen out adult content, it only applies English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch or Portuguese languages. Students have discovered this and brought it to our attention last year.
  3. Ethical use of digital material is seldom addressed in student projects that involve image capturing. It is our responsibility to teach students about digital property rights, obtaining permission to use images, and proper citation of images.
  4. Also, many malware/spyware programs reside in image files that are accessed via Google Images. These programs can sometimes elude our virus protection software and wreak havoc on our computers’ operating systems. Other infiltrations may seem rather innocuous – like automatically redirecting to another web site, but they do create technical issues that require a great deal of time to overcome.

Using Google Images is like sending your 10 year old on his own to shop in New York City – without supervision, without borders or parameters, without protection. He may very well make it back unscathed but he may also be exposed to dangerous situations that he is not prepared to handle.

There are better ways to have students include images in their projects. We have the capability to capture video and still images and use original work in digital communications. There are web sites that offer pre-screened and royalty free images and there are ways to obtain permission to use images and cite the ones that are used.

Here is a list of resources on this topic, including the Google FAQ section on image searching. Other links are blogs created by school technology coordinators who struggle with the ethics and proper use issues arising from technical ability versus property rights.

Google’s FAQs on its Image Search function:


Technology Coordinator Blog on Ethical Issues involving student use of Google Images

Another Blog:

Image Citation:

Appropriate Search Web Sites