Protecting Children On-Line / Parental Filtering

The following post was written as a PDF for my son’s local primary school. It is being posted on-line for the benefit of ALL who wish to filter their home internet connection, for the protection of young viewers.

You can download a PDF version of this page here and distribute it to friends and family as you need

How to Protect & Filter what your children can access on-line via computers, gaming consoles and mobile devices

If your children have access to mobile devices, tablet pc’s, laptops or computers with internet access enabled, ask yourself the following:

  1. Do you actively monitor what they are viewing?
  2. Do you know which websites they have viewed or which YouTube videos they have seen?
  3. Are you 100% sure that what they access is appropriate for their age?
  4. Have you checked the history to see what they have viewed? Do you even know how to?
  5. Is the history blank? Have you wondered why …..
  6. Do you have any parental filtering? Have you tested it on ALL devices?

Children today are generally internet savvy and know how to use computers, in many cases far more than you do! Most of the time this is no problem but adult content and graphic material is often a mouse click away and unless search results and web pages are filtered, problems can occur.

The aim of this document is to highlight potential dangers and provide information which will allow parents, to make the internet a safer place for their children in the home. There is no doubt that the internet is a fantastic place for learning as well as fun,  but it does have a darker side and the following information aims to provide you with the necessary tools to enable parental filtering and security to protect your entire home network.

Techno-Babble / Mumbo Jumbo and Technical Jargon

Before releasing this document, I handed it to a few select parents to gauge reaction. It has been through a few revisions since the first version!

Throughout this document there are certain words which are hyper-linked to a meaning at the bottom of this document. It was pointed out to me that certain terms may cause confusion so at the end of this document, each word is described in the easiest way to understand. I hope it helps.

Introducing OpenDNS (a FREE to use facility that provides parental filtering and security)

Today’s families have an array of internet-connected devices in their homes, from computers to gaming consoles to smart phones. OpenDNS is the only Internet parental controls solution that empowers parents to manage web access across every device that accesses the Internet on your home network. This includes phones and computers that your child’s friends bring into the home, giving parents total peace-of-mind that their children are protected regardless of how they’re accessing the Internet.

Please take a moment to visit www.opendns.com and sign up for the OpenDNS Home Account. It costs nothing! It is totally free for families (and home business users!!) and enables network wide parental filtering.

Step by Step Guide to enabling OpenDNS

Once you have signed up for the OpenDNS Home Account you will need to make a change to your wireless router. This is not difficult to do but you will need to log-in to the wireless router admin in order to make the change.

OpenDNS have provided a helpful guide which shows you how to do this. Please click the link below: https://store.opendns.com/setup/router/

If you have a different wireless router than those shown on the link above, don’t worry. Every router provides the same sort of facilities and once you gain access, look for Domain Name Server (DNS settings). In most cases, this will be set to the default option ‘Get automatically from ISP’. You must change this to ‘Use these DNS Servers’ and enter the following numbers.

Primary DNS = 208.67.222.222

Secondary DNS = 208.67.220.220

What is this actually doing?

You might be worried at this point, thinking that you might break something or mess up your internet. As long as you see the same as the image above and it says DNS servers and there is an option for you to enter two numbers, as shown above, it’s fine!

By entering these two DNS Servers you will benefit from the services provided by OpenDNS e.g parental filtering. This change will have no negative impact on your network whatsoever, in fact it will improve.

Insert the DNS Servers and Save your Changes

Once you have made the changes to your wireless router make sure you save the changes! That’s it, you are now on OpenDNS or at least the first part of it.

At the moment, nothing will appear to have changed. That’s fine. Now, we need to configure the actual rules of what you wish to filter. To do this, make sure you have created your OpenDNS Home Account.

Signup here: https://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/parental-controls/

Or if you have one already, simply go to www.opendns.com and click ‘Sign In’ top right of their website. Once you log in, you will see the following:

Logged into OpenDNS Home Account (screen shot of what you will see)

This is a screenshot of what you will see when you log into your account. From this area you can access and configure your ‘Settings’ which basically allows you to tell it what you want to allow and disallow in your home network.

Open DNS Screen Shot

You can from this area specify what content you wish to block and what websites you wish to allow or deny on your network. You can view statistics of websites which can been viewed and you have total control over all activity on your home or business network.

The screen below shows you an example of the web content filtering screen and the options available to me, as a parent. In my case, I have chosen Moderate default setting which blocks all the main nasties without causing much issue to me at work (from home). If I need to white list a domain, I can do without any issue.

opendns2

In this case, I have chosen to block m.youtube.com which means that youtube can NOT be accessed from any mobile device, but is ok on main computers. I choose to do this, so that ipod’s are not able to access youtube content, yet for monitored access on computers, it is allowed.

It is completely up to you how you choose to filter your home network, but I strongly advise you test your home computers and any devices with access to it and make sure it’s safe for young eyes.

Other Tips for Securing Mobile Access

If your children have ipod, iphones or ipads, have you checked the ‘Restrictions’ settings?

Apple, provide tools which limit content on their devices but not everyone uses them. If you navigate to Settings > General > Restrictions you can ‘Enable Restrictions’ and specify what can and can’t be used on the device. Apple allow the parent to lock this with a pass code, so the child can not adjust the settings. As default, content rated 18+ can be viewed, so it’s worth setting this to an appropriate level e.g 12 or PG for example.

HOME NETWORK

This term simply refers to your devices being connected together.  All of your desktop PC’s, laptops, mobile devices and tablets sharing an internet connection, form a ‘home network’.

PARENTAL FILTERING

The ability for parents to control what is and is not allowed via a home network or single computer. To filter based on domain name or category.

ROUTER

A router can also be referred to as a wireless router. This is the small box which connects to your phone line and provides internet access in your home. It is often black, sometimes white and has various ports on the back with flashy lights on the front. In most cases, the wireless router will be supplies by BT, Virgin, Sky or similar and this box will be mostly WiFi enabled. This basically broadcasts wireless internet around your home so that computers and mobile devices can access the internet without needing a cable.

WIRELESS ROUTER ADMIN

Every router has an admin area. This is accessed via an IP on the home network. In most cases the default will be something like http://192.168.1.1 or maybe http://192.168.0.1 .. If you don’t know what the IP is, you can do the following:

  1. If you have an iPhone, install the app called ‘Fing’ This will allow you to view every single connected device on your home network. Look for the entry for your router e.g netgear.
  2. If you are on windows, go to the windows search and type cmd and enter. This opens the ‘command prompt’ and in here, please type. ipconfig /all (once you type this, it will show you the IP address for your ‘Default Gateway’. Write down the number as this is your router admin IP address

OPENDNS

An online provider to business, educational establishments and families! OpenDNS are located online at www.opendns.com and they provide facilities to protect to networks, enable parental filtering and protection from virus. They offer a FREE family account which this document relates to and helps you to set up.

DOMAIN NAME SERVER / DNS Settings

DNS stands for Domain Name System and providers like BT provide DNS servers which match the actual domain name e.g bbc.co.uk to a physical number e.g 212.58.251.195. Nobody can remember the numbers, but everyone can remember the letters e.g bbc.co.uk. DNS servers simply map the domain name to the IP address / number.

WHITE-LISTED

This is the term given to ‘allowing’ a domain name or term. If for example, a specific website is blocked (let’s assume bbc.co.uk is blocked) white-listing the domain name bbc.co.uk would ‘allow’ it to be accessed on your home network. It basically means to ‘allow’ it to be viewed.

OPEN DNS FAMILY ACCOUNT

The family account can be found online here: http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/parental-controls/ and is called ‘Open DNS Home’. It costs nothing and allows parents to make simple changes which allow them total control over ‘every single connected device in the home’.

NETWORK WIDE PARENTAL FILTERING

In the past, parental filtering may have been installed on a single machine. These software’s often don’t work well and ONLY protect the machine they are installed on. Network Wide Parental Filtering assumes filtering which effects every single device which is connected to the ‘home network’.

WEB ACCESS

A connection to the internet. Web is the common term used in www (world wide web). To ‘browse the web’ or ‘connect to the web’ simply means, getting on-line / using the internet