My post about BING in the Classroom for ad-free, safe search in schools spawned several questions about keeping kids safe online when they’re at home. Unfortunately BING’s ad-free safe search is currently only available for schools, but there are other internet filtering software options for home use that you can install to protect your kids when they’re on the Internet at home. For this topic, I’m turning the blog over to my husband, Paul. Not only is he cute *wink* but he’s the I.T. Director for an actuarial firm, which is Greek for super techy and smart when it comes to computers. Needless to say, he takes care of all things tech-related in our home. So with that, I’ll turn it over to him.
Best Home Internet Filtering Software to Keep Kids Safe Online
OpenDNS is fairly easy to set up on most home routers, and the OpenDNS site provides instructions for pretty much every brand of router. The advantage of OpenDNS is that you can provide parental filtering for every device that attaches to your network. Here is how it works. Every device that accesses the internet requires a DNS address to navigate the web. This address points to a DNS server that resolves host names (like google.com, yahoo.com, musingsofahousewife.com) on the internet. So when you type in google.com in your browser, your PC does a lookup with the DNS server, which tells your computer the actual numeric address (a 32-bit number or “IP address”) of that site, and your browser then responds with the site’s content. To make home networking simpler, PCs generally just point to the address of your home router, which relays the DNS lookup and response back to your PC. By changing the DNS address on your router to an OpenDNS address, the router gets its information from the OpenDNS DNS server instead of your ISP’s DNS server, which provides *no filtering*. I repeat, the DNS servers provided by most ISPs do not filter websites and are happy to hand out addresses requested by your children regardless of its appropriateness. The ISPs will tell you to install parental filters, but that is not easy with so many kinds of devices (PCs, Macs, android, IOS, Linux, etc.) By using OpenDNS you can setup filters for sites you deem unfit (porn, violence, etc). You decide what it should filter by setting up an account on the opendns.com site and creating your personal settings. You also need to download a small OpenDNS provided “updater” program on one of your computers that reports to OpenDNS your latest ISP provided network address. This address changes occasionally, and having the OpenDNS updater running allows OpenDNS to identify and apply filters to your home network at all times.
About Sophos UTM
The Sophos UTM product is running on a home built router/firewall that I installed. It is very difficult to get working right, and I only recommend for those families that have network engineers in the home or someone with a good understanding of firewall configuration. The advantages of Sophos UTM are:
- additional level of filtering
- force safe search for sites like google images
- provide reports on all internet activity on your network
- malware scanning of downloaded files and email attachments
And if you desire, you can enforce times of access, create hotspot login authentication and many other features. So there you have it (it’s Jo-Lynne again) — short and sweet, but hopefully helpful? I can attest that OpenDNS works because I’m often searching for fashion posts and it blocks sites that sell swimsuits and underwear, which is super annoying, but you can just go in to the Open DNS settings and select to view that site (or, if you’re me, you call your husband and demand that he do it asap because you can never remember from one time to the next how it’s done. Someone out there must feel my pain, yes???) But it’s still worth it to me to protect my kids. This is not to say that they can’t see stuff you don’t want them to see. Google Images and Pinterest and YouTube all have lots of junk that’s hard to filter out, but it gives me some measure of comfort to have these parental controls installed. Also, for smartphones, we use Mobicip. It’s available for Android, iOS and Windows. You can take a look at their site to see the features they offer. I hope you find this helpful!