What’s the easiest way to control what computers can access on the Internet in my home?
This question was answered on November 21, 2014. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Content control systems exist in a wide variety of forms ranging from software installed on specific devices to hardware that can control what all connected devices can access.
Content controls are a really good way to limit exposure to infections through malicious websites as well as preventing access to adult themed content.
There are a variety of parental control programs that you can install on each computer you want to control, but I prefer to use tools that control access of all devices on the network.
One of my favorite tools for parents that want easy to use content controls for the entire household is FamilyShield from http://OpenDNS.com
OpenDNS FamilyShield is a free service that provides you with lots of controls and automatic protection by simply changing the DNS server settings on your home router.
Once setup, everything in your house: computers, tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, smart TVs or anything capable of accessing the Internet can be controlled from a single point.
DNS stands for Domain Name System and on the Internet, DNS servers act as a form of traffic cop when you surf the Internet.
All websites have a numeric address (a.k.a. an IP address) that would be difficult for humans to remember, so DNS servers translate websites that we type into our browsers into their associated numbers so we can find them.
So by changing your router’s DNS server settings to one controlled by OpenDNS, all your Internet traffic is routed through their systems, providing you with their free tools.
Another advantage to this approach is that anyone connected to your home Wi-Fi is subject to your rules, so your child’s friend can’t bypass your controls by bringing their computer or tablet over.
The pre-configured filters will automatically block adult websites as soon as you turn it on and OpenDNS takes care of adding new sites to the filter as they discover them.
From there you can choose one of their preset filtering levels or customize the level of web filtering you want for your home by choosing between 56 categories of content.
You can block entire categories (adult, games, social media, etc.) or specific websites within categories.
When a site gets blocked that you want to allow access to, you can easily add it to the whitelist so over time it becomes a totally customized filter for your household.
OpenDNS also provides you with tracking information, so you can keep tabs on new websites that your children visit to make sure they’re appropriate.
Another bonus is the automatic phishing protection that will block known phishing and ID theft websites if someone falls for an email phishing message.
Be careful which email address you use to setup your OpenDNS account as I’ve seen clever kids access mom and dad’s email to reset the administrators password so they can bypass the filter.
The other thing to remember is that any device that can access the Internet via a cellular network (smartphones, tablets, etc.) will need separate parental controls setup.
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on November 21, 2014