In the context of today’s mass of information, it is crucial that children have access to information from diverse sources, both national and international, and that this access has a positive and healthy aim. The whole process of accessing information is primordial to the child’s education and development in the broadest sense
Information is not only a necessary factor in the different stages of development from prenatal development to adolescence, but also it is multifaceted, with physical, emotional, cognitive and social angles. Children are seeking appropriate information at every stage of their lives.
Most Information Retrieval (IR) systems are designed for adults: they return information that is unsuitable for children, present information in lists that children find difficult to manage and make it difficult for children to ask for information. Worse, almost all Internet search engines confront children with pornography and other inappropriate material.
A number of observations motivate why we need information services specifically dedicated for children, tailored towards their unique information needs and their intuitive style of interaction:
Children are very creative and open-minded.
Children want to learn new things and have fun while learning. Information services require both interfaces tailored to children and presentation paradigms that would allow focused access.
Children are highly sensitive to emotion.
They want to express their sentiments about topics and events and share their emotions. Information services should advise children on the polarity of the opinions, and address neutrality when for example providing explanations.
Children express their information need differently from adults.
Information services should support children’s abilities to express their thoughts and needs in richer ways. This does not only mean suggesting grammar and spelling tips, but also enlarging children’s knowledge by offering similar or analogous concepts or topics.
Children are particularly exposed to unsolicited material, such as the phenomenon of ‘typo-squatting’.
Information services must provide a safe environment for children in their information seeking activities.