Last week I kicked off the Cyber Safety for Kids series with a few statistics about kids, the internet, and pornography.
So we’ve established there is a problem. But how do we prevent our kids from accessing online porn, either accidentally or intentionally?
The first type of internet protection we’re going to talk about is DNS level protection.
What is DNS?
Before we get into how DNS filters work, we need to understand DNS.
DNS stands for Domain Name Servers. All DNS servers do is translate a domain name, like lynnaemccoy.com, into an IP address that computers can find. People can remember domain names, but computers need the IP number to correctly bring up the correct website.
The best analogy I’ve seen to explain DNS is a phone book. When you want to call someone, you look up their name in the phone book. But to actually call them, you need to use the phone number. DNS is the same thing, only instead of dealing with phones, we’re dealing with computers.
Usually, a home network will us the DNS servers from the internet service provider. Internet service providers generally don’t filter out bad content.
That’s where Open DNS comes in.
What is Open DNS?
Open DNS is simply a DNS server. Rather than routing your internet traffic through your internet service provider’s (Charter, Comcast, etc) DNS servers, you can point your router to Open DNS.
What are the advantages of doing that?
Well, Open DNS is free, first of all. I always like free solutions.
Also, Open DNS provides DNS level filtering for your home network. You set the level of filtering you want, and Open DNS will refuse to serve all known websites of that category. They never reach your home router. And that, in turn, keeps those websites from reaching any internet connected device on your network!
Open DNS Filtering
Open DNS offers three levels of filtering.
The lowest level protects agains pornography.
The medium level protects against all adult-related sites and illegal activity.
The highest level protects against adult-related sites, illegal activity, social networking, video sharing sites, and time wasting sites.
[Tweet “Open DNS is a great basic level of protection against online porn. #cybersafety”]
You can also set the filtering level to “none” or “custom.” “None” allows you to use the internet unfiltered, and custom allows you to pick and choose what categories of websites you’d like to block.
Changing settings is as easy as logging into your Open DNS dashboard and clicking a few buttons.
The Pros and Cons of Open DNS Web Filtering
- It’s free.
- Provides a filter for all devices hooked up to your home network – including devices that belong to visitors to your home.
- You can set it and forget it.
- It might improve your internet speed, if your regular ISP has slow servers. It helped mine.
- You can’t set different levels of filtering for different devices.
- Must be comfortable changing your router settings. It actually sounds scarier than it is.
- Only filters known categories. For example, youtube is not a porn site, but sometimes risque videos appear there. It will not filter those videos.
- The filtering is on your network, not your device. When your child takes his laptop to a friend’s house, Open DNS will not protect him.
Overall, Open DNS is a great first level of defense against unwholesome websites, but it is not a complete solution on it’s own. Stay tuned to this series for more options to protect your children.
Read the rest of the series.
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