In the past, I've used lots of different parental controls products to help protect my kids from certain internet content, it always seemed difficult to manage, created compatibility issues, etc.
A while back, I found a much better solution: OpenDNS.
If your not familiar with the term "DNS," it stands for Domain Name System, and it's the service that allows us to use "friendly" URL's on the internet (http://genuinecuriosity.com, for example, instead of a long string of numbers).
Here's the short story on OpenDNS:
- When you use it as your DNS server, OpenDNS becomes your means for looking up names on the internet. Because it intercepts all of your browser's requests, it has the ability to block or filter those requests.
- OpenDNS allows you to configure a list of categories of sites you'd like to block (see example screen shot, below) including adware, phishing sites, adult content, hate speech, and other things.
- OpenDNS also tracks your DNS requests (blocked or not) so you can find out what sites are most popular, most blocked, etc.
How I'm using OpenDNS:
- I've pointed my broadband router at OpenDNS so that any traffic out of my house (wired or wireless) defaults to OpenDNS for address lookups.
- I've selected a number of categories to block using the user-friendly configuration page at OpenDNS's site.
- When one of my kids tries to access one of those sites, they get a "blocked" page that tells them they are trying to access a page that is restricted.
- They are also given the option to request access to the page if they think it's been mistakenly blocked (this does happen occasionally - one example is that some of my kids' game sites are miscategorized as gambling sites).
- I get an email if they request an exception. If I agree they should access the site, I can click a link in the email to "whitelist" (allow) that site.
How much does OpenDNS cost?OpenDNS has a free option that should be enough for most home users. I wanted some additional flexibility, so I recently upgraded to a Family account ($9.95 per year - you can compare the features of the plans, including business plans, on their site).
I've found this to be a cheap, straight-forward method of managing access to inappropriate content at my house - without the compatibility issues I've seen with software-based solutions.
Even if you don't want to block kids from adult content, you can use the free version of OpenDNS to block adware and other annoying things on the internet.