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Protect Your Kids Online Using Open DNS

This week I have been covering tools to use within Windows Vista to help keep your kids safe using the PC and while being online.  This article will apply will show how to use Open DNS with any Operating System to help filter undesirable web content.  Simply put DNS (Domain Name System) translates IP address to an easy to remember hostname.  For example if you were to type “216.239.51.99” without the quotes into your web browser you will be directed to google.com.

I wrote up an article previously that basically introduces you to Open DNS and how to add it to your router.  Here we will look a bit deeper into it and show you how to best use it to your advantage.  There is a lot of web content filtering possibilities which include specific sites, specific content, and adult website filtering.

opendns_logo1

The first thing you will want to do is sign up for a free account and download the OpenDNS Updater application.  OpenDNS will automatically detect your IP address and will prompt you to create a name and download the Updater application.

added network

After signing up go to your Dashboard where you can start creating rules for filtering, manage your administrator settings, and add additional networks.  Basically your dashboard is where you will make all changes you need.  If you ever get stuck or have questions they also have a cool support system which includes a knowledge base and user forum.

Dashboard

Lets take a look at filtering content.  From your dashboard click on Settings.  You will then be prompted to choose a basic filtering level from None to High.  This might be a good choice if you want to easily filter out several categories.  To view what the categories are in each level just click on View for a detailed look.

basic filtering

This is an example of the detailed categories in the Low filter setting.  This helps you choose what types of content you want blocked.

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Here is a list of all the categories available to block through OpenDNS.  As you can see this service will work for your children as well as any user on your network and also for business.

Customize

You can choose a filtering level and add customized domain filtering to it, or completely customize everything.  Probably one of the more publicized social sites you may want to block your child from is MySpace so I will use it as my example.  Below the filtering levels you will see Manage individual domains.  This is where you can get more specific in what your filtering.  The two options are Never Block or Always Block.

block individual domain

Just type in the address of the site to block and click on the Add Domain button.  You can then choose to just block the domain or better yet, block all of the categories in the sub-domain.  This means although you block myspace.com if you do not block the sub-domains within the user can access some of the content.  Any changes you make will take about 3 minutes to update.

block myspace

Once you have created all of your filters and a user tries to go to a blocked site they will get a message telling them it is blocked and why.  This is the standard message they will get.

Site Blocked Message

Another cool feature is the ability to customize the message the user sees.  You can customize it with say your company logo or a picture of yourself.  So if you child tries to go to a pornography site and they see a picture of their parent … well … that might urge them to never try that again!  This is an example of a custom message I made.

custom

You can also get statistic logs  which will show you what type of traffic was blocked and other stats to allow you to better filter content.

stats and logs

OpenDNS is a great way to protect your kids from undesirable Internet content but that is not all.  Businesses can definitely use it in the workplace.  I personally use it to improve my Internet experience.  In future articles we will be covering a lot more on this incredible web service!  To get an idea of how popular, effective, and trusted OpenDNS is you can check out a list of their business customers.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/8/08

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