OpenDNS keeps the kids (mostly) safe online

My 8 year old uses a drawing program at school called Kid Pix. It’s installed on their computers, but so many of the things he does on computers is online that he can’t really tell the difference. He thought it was in the cloud, I guess. He came home a while ago and wanted to show it to me, so he loaded up a browser, typed “kid pix” in the Google search bar, and waited to see what would come up. Firefox being as helpful as it is, decided we felt lucky and started sending us to the first search result…

Now, that doesn’t seem to return anything nasty anymore, but when he did it that day I had one of those “Nnnoooo!” moments and I quickly shut off the computer. Yes, I had forgotten to set his Google search preferences, but I needed a more complete solution to make sure he doesn’t end up in the internet’s vast NSFW zone.

I tried a few net nanny type clients on his computer, but settled on a

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more robust solution. OpenDNS.com is a free service that provides a DNS server that is customizable to filter and block different categories of sites. I pointed my router to their servers instead of to my ISP’s default servers, set up an account, and set it up to block just the categories I wanted it to block. OpenDNS makes it easy to pick one of the preconfigured filtering levels:

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I started with the Moderate filtering level and customized it, so now my filtering categories look like this:

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You can see how many categories you can block — it’s pretty flexible.

Finally, you can configure settings for individual domains, like this:

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I’m not sure why, but the prediction market site intrade.com was blocked, possibly under OpenDNS’s Gambling category. I wanted to see it, especially during the US Presidential election, so I set it to never block that particular domain.

I have found OpenDNS to be easy to configure, and very effective at keeping my kids safe from and happily ignorant of the more salacious bits of the internet. We’ve been using it for a few months at home, and intrade.com was the only site I’ve encountered that was improperly blocked — and even that is arguable!

UPDATE: Well, not really an update, but just a note to say that I was not sponsored in any way to write this post. I’ve heard some bloggers are paid to write about products. This is a glowing review, but just because I like it.

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2 thoughts on “OpenDNS keeps the kids (mostly) safe online

  1. Wendy says:

    Truly useful, thank you. I abandoned netnanny cyberpatrol etc because it all got too complex. I’ll give this a try instead. Very grateful.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good luck — I’ll be interested to know how it works out for you!

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