Kids and technology are not always a good combination, which is why we adults need to protect our gadgets from our kids. It works the other way too, though: Unrestricted, the Internet at large can be dangerous for young children to wander about freely. One site has given me great peace of mind as a parent: OpenDNS.
If you’re not familiar with OpenDNS, this is how it works. The Domain Name System (DNS) is the technology that translates a computer or server’s address to a host name; in plain English, it allows you to type in “ehow.com,” for example, rather than the not-so-memorable IP address 126.96.36.199. When you sign up for internet service, the ISP’s own DNS servers do the translating, but if you’re so inclined, you can also use free public DNS providers, such as Google Public DNS or OpenDNS.
Choosing a different DNS provider can speed up your Internet browsing. In the case of OpenDNS, you also get more web filtering controls — perfect for protecting little ones from inappropriate content. Need more convincing? One in three school districts use OpenDNS.
Because you set up OpenDNS in your router, it covers any device connected to your home network — your iPad or other tablets, smartphones and computers. It protects against phishing attacks and also provides weekly reports.
To get started, head to OpenDNS’s parental controls page, where you can select a package. Among the free options, you can choose the Family Shield service, which automatically blocks adult content, or the OpenDNS Home package, which lets you customize the filtering and security settings (for example, block adult sites, gaming sites or social media sites).
After creating an account, choose the web content filtering and security options for your home network.
You’ll have to head to your router’s administration page to add OpenDNS servers’ IP addresses (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206), as the DNS servers (OpenDNS offers tutorials for different routers), but once you do that and configure your parental controls at OpenDNS.com, you’ve added an extra layer of security and monitoring to your network — for free.
Other choices that protect your kids online include monitoring their social media accounts and using other parental control tools. Of course, staying safe online starts with you teaching kids proper netiquette. But OpenDNS is a powerful tool that gives you a lot of control over where your kids go online without making you feel too “Big Brother”-ish.