Protecting the Kids (from the Internet at home)

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This subject, “Protecting the Kids”, will have a lot of content.  I’ll definitely break up into more posts.  For this first post today, I’d like to bring up this is NOT complicated.  Steps including signing up for a FREE service, and then only a few choices online and changing one setting at home.

Let’s get started!

How do we protect the kids from the digital world?

Eventually I’m sure I will get into the deep details of my experience in the computer world, but right now I’m thinking about my kids and the immediate need for protection against all that is available on the internet.  Sure they like the general YouTube videos, and gaming with friends.  Any adult knows there is questionable and even seriously offensive material out there that is easily accessible even if you type in the wrong keyword in a search.  So what are some steps to protect our children?  Here are some personal and digital pointers I have used with my current pre-teens.

I cannot stress this enough, you need to be involved with your Kids use of the internet.  It is wayyyyyyy too easy to accidentally or purposely go where no kid should go!

Access to the internet

There are so many ways to get to the internet content.  Personal Computers, Tablets, Phones, and you might even forget about your Smart TVs and consoles such as XBOX. Think about all the things that use WiFi connections in your home.  Even the cool new Google Home Hub sitting in your kitchen has access to all the YouTube videos on the internet good or bad.  Best case scenario, you are filtering this content from your internet source.  That is your router.  The router is the thing that provides your devices in your home and generally has wireless abilities built in for convenience.  Even if you aren’t into IT like me, this is a great place to filter content whether you have something advanced, or something entry level.

Content Filtering

First of all, there are different ways to filter content.  And by NO means should you ever assume you are protected just because something says you are.  TEST IT!  Sure you might not want to see something, but if you don’t test what you hope you are protected against, you only have yourself to blame when content is readily available that you do NOT want available to your family/home.

OpenDNS was a project started over 10 years ago that provided filtering.  About 5 years ago, it was bought by CISCO.  That name should ring a bell for the most novice in IT.  For a Household you can setup this service FREE!  This is a huge help on the continuous fight of internet content. You may see a logon screen that says OPENDNS, or you may get to a logon screen that says CISCO UMBRELLA.  Either is fine.  You just want to select the DASHBOARD once you logon.

Non IT person tip!

  • DNS is how everything will find websites on the internet.  Think of a DNS address like a way to find your home.  You have a numeric address on your house, but everyone knows it as the SMITH HOME for example.  All websites have a numeric address and when you type in a website name, you are routed to that address with DNS.
  • http://lmgtfy.com/?q=What+is+DNS
  • There is a small caveat. Generally the way internet goes for homes, you do not get a static address.  That means the internet provider can change your numeric address at anytime.  To keep OpenDNS protecting your home, you need to make sure they know your updated address at all times.  This allows that protection to work properly.  To keep this information updated, you just need to install a small updater utility on a computer that is online at home.  I’ll revisit that at the end.

Signing up for your Household account is easy.

Once you sign up for your account, you will have a DASHBOARD to make configuration.  Don’t worry, there is little for you to choose.  The point being how much you content you want blocked.  It is a step by step process they provide, and I would like to elaborate a little below.

  1. You will need to setup a network.
    • This means you have to add your home location.  It is not advanced networking, just letting them know the source address, meaning your home address provided by the internet service provider.
    • You will download the update agent mentioned earlier to keep this up to date.  Install this on the machine that will be on the internet most often.
  2. Time to setup up how much filtering is being applied.
    • Now I am speaking as a parent and want pretty good level of protection.  I chose MODERATE here which is also customize-able.  I encourage you to look at what will be blocked and make your own preferred choice.
    • No matter which level of protection you choose, you can add individual things to block or allow as you see fit later under the filtering level!
  3. Time to set the Security options
    • Additional security for free!
      • I recommend choosing Malware and Phishing protections.
  4. Time to choose any customization.
    • Logo – I really like this option because I have put a headshot of myself here.  When the kids accidentally or purposely attempt a website I do not approve, my little mug is there to say, SORRY!  THIS SITE IS BLOCKED!  SEE ME IF THIS WAS AN ERROR OR TO MAKE EXCEPTIONS!  Even if I am not sitting on their shoulder, it kind of feels like it in a way.
  5. Time to choose Stats
    • I like stats to look into.  If you don’t, then clear the box.
  6. Time to choose/verify dynamic update
    • Now this is again what I referred to earlier.  You need to keep your address updated with OpenDNS.  Your address can change at anytime with the internet service provider.  Keep your DNS provider up to date with your current address.

Ok we are done with the online account creation and basic config.  Not much of a chore at all.  Now we have just your home network to change.

Generally, all your devices at home ask your router for the DNS.  Then your router goes out to your internet provider for that DNS information. The whole point of this post is that you want to control what everyone/everything at home can get to on the internet to some degree. So now you just need to tell your router to get ALL DNS information from OpenDNS.

Here is a link to router configuration.  This is how you will enforce this DNS filter.

 

Ok, now that you have accomplished that final piece, you just need to test it.  You are thinking, what bad place can I go to test it.  Well that depends on what you wanted to block.  You could have even have blocked YouTube entirely if you chose that.  Otherwise it is a simply search away.

My MODERATE choice of filtering blocks all known dating sites.  I’m married and why on earth would my kids need to go to a dating site?  So I tried “eharmony.com” and instead I get a nice little indication that this site is blocked.  **Note that yes I misspelled words in my notification.

block-opendns

By taking this step and creating some filtering for your home, you have made a major change in the way everyone in your household accesses content on the internet.  Pat yourself on the back and show your spouse!

More tips to come!

 

 

 

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