By Ron Doyle, Administrator | March 15, 2011 - 5:44 am - Posted in Columns

I get emails from people quite often wondering how they can go about protecting people (especially kids & teens) from the darker side of the internet.  I did write about this several years ago but from the number of changes in the e-world, software and number of emails I get; I feel it is time for an update.

I have a very good and free recommendation called OpenDNS.  At the bottom of the main page choose, "For Households" to get directions.  OpenDNS does many things but basically provides a fairly simple method for home users to block objectionable content from their computers.  This works whether it is pornography, alcohol, file sharing networks, video sites, podcasts, or chat rooms, etc.

Filtering LevelYou can choose "High," "Moderate," "Low," "None," or "Custom" as your default setting. These have been created by OpenDNS for you.  My favorite option is, "Custom." Using the custom setting you may choose from over 50 categories to block from your computer.  These include, "Academic Fraud," "Adult Themes," "Photo Sharing," "Games," and "Instant Messaging" just to name just a few.

Custom Filter ChoicesYou also have the option of blocking individual sites.  So if you didn’t want your spouse spending all day long reading the great articles at DoubleClicks.info you could block that site alone…but I know you would not do so…please?!.

OpenDNS is controlled by one password and account. You cannot control it by creating separate accounts for individual users.  This means if you block "weapons" from your computer because you don’t want your kids buying grenade launchers, it will also block you from browsing for a new pocket knife.

They threw in another neat feature.  It is cosmetic but still worth mentioning.  If you try to log into a blocked site you will get a reference page telling you which category blocked it, i.e. "weapons".  The page can be customized by you, the administrator of your network.  Mine has a picture of me glaring at the user and a sentence telling them that they shouldn’t try this site again or I will come after them.  Of course, my wife has a better glare than me (the mom look) and this probably won’t have much effect since the kids are grown and gone.

Also, if you get blocked the reference page has an email form which allows the user to notify the administrator.  They can say that they don’t believe that particular site should be blocked.  Then you may allow its use if you agree.  There are other features you can discover on your own.

I think this is a very useful tool for keeping your kids safe online.  I forgot to mention the price…free!  Next week we will take a look at how Microsoft provides this type of help too.

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