A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about how to create a family friendly internet setup in your home. Given how quickly technology changes, I thought it was time to revisit the topic to see what has changed.
Being the father of five children under the age of 15 years old, and having 4 computers in our home along with a couple of iPod Touches, I’ve been experimenting with software & services over the past few years to try make my childrens’ experience on the internet as porn free as possible. After trying some commercial software for content filtering that ended up slowing down our 4 year old computer, and didn’t do anything to help on our iPod Touches, I have found something that works quite well on all the internet devices in our house (remember that no solution is 100% perfect not matter what the software vendor claims). It not only works well, but once you set it up on your home router, you don’t need to install anything on the desktop computers or iPod Touches!
OpenDNS is the solution. OpenDNS allows you to filter web content and block adult websites on the internet by simply changing the DNS servers that your computers uses, or even better by change the DNS servers on your internet router. The service not only works well, but is free to use. After you’ve setup an account you can specify the kinds of web sites you want to block. Types of sites you can filter range from, Pronography, to simply Tasteless site. You have all the control that you could ask for.
If you want, you can also enable logging so that you can keep track of the websites computers in your house are visiting. This all happens transparently, without having to install any software on your computer. If you have an internet router, you can manually change the DNS servers that your router uses to the two OpenDNS servers, and all the comptuers in hour home will automatically be protected from the kinds of web sites you specify, log the sites they visit (you have to turn the logging on, it is off by default). If you want to change your DNS settings now just use the following:
You should also install the OpenDNS client on your computers, just in case the IP address on your router changes. If your IP address changes (which happens from time to time), the OpenDNS client will let their servers know, so that your network will continue to filter content as you requested. Here is download page for the Mac and Windows clients.
While this is a great technological solution, don’t forget that you should talk to your kids about their use of the internet, and what they should do if they accidentally get on a site that they aren’t comfortable viewing (i.e. tell mom or dad so that they can take care of it). Like I said earlier, no solution is 100% effective, so chances are that they will occasionally see sites that aren’t appropriate. Making sure that they know that it isn’t their fault and that you’ll help them is probably the best way to resolve the immediate problem, and open up a dialog between you and your child on their use of the internet.
To sum up: OpenDNS along with Online Backup Software are two services that every home should seriously consider using. OpenDNS is completely free, and Online Backup Software is free up to 2GB of data backed up, and about $5 per month for unlimited backups. Enjoy!