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Microsoft is trying to look out for our youth and further their education with the launch of Bing for Schools. Of course, any instance where Bing profits because of brand exposure is merely coincidental.
Bing for Schools focuses on two tactics for protecting our children on the Internet; the first is ad-free search. Psychologists and government officials regularly tout the difficulty children face when differentiating between content and advertising. Advertisers try to engage children by using their favorite characters or fun games so they don’t realize they’re being sold a bowl of cereal or juice drink. (Oh the irony that today’s marketers are using the same strategy on adults with interactive ads.)
The Bing for Schools program makes sure the search results students see are educational resources instead of advertisements.
The second element is the removal of adult content. Microsoft wants to assure teachers that the Internet is a safe place for their students– as long as they’re using Bing.
The educational purpose of these two elements isn’t to keep kids from buying Rolexes or looking at porn, (if it was, Microsoft would be launching Bing for Work) but rather to keep kids on-task while they’re working on assignments.
Microsoft is thinking in the long-run with the Bing for Schools initiative. If kids are exposed to the search engine as early as Kindergarten, and grow up using Bing at school, then they’re more likely to bring the brand home and use it for homework and projects. Microsoft wants to raise a generation of Bing users. Google can win the battle, but in 12 years Bing will win the war.
That’s not to say that Microsoft isn’t jumping on the bandwagon of current trends to draw users. Their tertiary audience is parents who are concerned about the recent government events regarding privacy. The press release guides readers to their Scroogled website, an attack initiative on Google accusing for reading the private emails of users to serve targeted ads. Microsoft wants to show parents that in a world of NSA and email scanners, there is one safe place for their kids to grow up: Bing.
Microsoft isn’t the first initiative to target children and schools. Apple updated its guidelines last week to meet FTC regulations and create kid-friendly accounts with limited ads and information storage. Apple also wants more iPads in schools to introduce kids to their products at a young age.
While tech companies push their products on schools under the guise of education and child welfare, the kids really do win in the long run. Bing for Schools also has rewards points to help students, teachers, and parents earn surface tablets for their classrooms. This is an opportunity for school districts that can’t afford to buy tablets. If students can move to tablets and e-readers, then they don’t have to haul physical books to and from their homes. Plus, there are more opportunities for interactive education.
Microsoft and Apple are becoming the new Coca-Cola and Pepsi of schools. People don’t like the idea of the government advertising products to children when they’re supposed to be learning, but they love what schools are able to do with the money and resources. It’s a double-edged sword for education. Where do you stand on it?