My quest to find an inexpensive or free way to provide a safer and content filtered Internet browsing experience for my family over our home high speed Internet connection has been solved! The answer? OpenDNS.
Today while I was enjoying a visit to the Oklahoma City Apple Store, I misspelled a website address I was trying to access on one of the beautiful 24″ flatscreen iMac computers. I noticed that when the website address was not found, a customized message was displayed suggesting an alternate spelling for the website address. I noticed this message was enabled by the OpenDNS service, and upon visiting their website, learned that the free OpenDNS service can be used to block network access to adult/objectionable websites for FREE. This is a BIG deal.
There are various ways to attempt to protect and prevent individuals on a computer network from accessing objectionable websites. Since our ten year old son got his own laptop about a month ago, this has become a bigger concern for us as a family. We haven’t had any issues with him accessing inappropriate material online, but I would like at least a basic level of protection to insure that he or our daughters don’t stumble onto an inappropriate website. As their friends start also using the Internet more when they come over to the house, I know this will be an ongoing concern.
When we purchased the Mac OS 10.5 Leopard operating system upgrade back in October, I was enthused about the parental controls features it includes. Those features are not available on our son’s six year old Mac laptop, however, because it is too old to run the latest operating system from Apple.
I have long thought that a network-level content filtering solution for home users is DIRELY needed and would be a great commercial product, as long as it would be affordable. The reason a “network-level content filtering solution” is needed is that in many households, multiple computers are used to access the Internet. As an example, in our own home over the holidays, we’ve had eight different computers owned by our family members and guests on our wireless network accessing the Internet at different times. Those computers have run different operating systems. The logistics of managing a single content filtering solution on the network compared to trying to keep up with parental control software on multiple computers is VERY different. Thankfully, OpenDNS appears to be EXACTLY the type of solution I’ve been looking for to provide NETWORK-WIDE content filtering and website access logging– and the price is right: It is FREE.
The getting started directions for OpenDNS are very clear and straightforward. This content filtering solution is usable irrespective of the Internet Service Provider you currently use. This approach utilizes DNS, or the Domain Name System, which essentially functions as the phone book of the Internet. Instead of using the default DNS server addresses provided by your ISP, with OpenDNS you utilize their DNS server addresses and are able to manage multiple features of your Internet connection as a result, including content filtering.
As described in the OpenDNS getting started directions, my first step was to reconfigure my home router to use the OpenDNS server addresses and update the router. This took about two minutes:
Then, I was able to create a free OpenDNS account and specify different options relating to Internet access through my home router. These included turning on a variety of different content filtering options:
Once these options were enabled, a customized “blocked” message was displayed in a web browser when an attempt was made to access an inappropriate or objectionable website:
One of the other options I enabled within my OpenDNS dashboard was statistics and logging:
With this feature enabled, I will have access to information about all the Internet traffic requests which originate from computers connected to my home network. This is not only beneficial from the standpoint of knowing if anyone has attempted to access blocked websites – It can also potentially show me if any unauthorized parties (like my neighbors) are utilizing my Internet connection without permission and potentially engaging in illegal filesharing or other activities. This scenario is VERY doubtful, given the fact that my wireless network is secured with WPA2 encryption (which has never been cracked, as far as I know) but it is still handy. For those home or organizational users with open or less secure WEP encrypted WiFi networks, this functionality could be more critical and useful.
I am SO THRILLED to have found about about OpenDNS and successfully configured my network for content filtering in literally five minutes! I no longer have to search for commercial or free software which could be installed on the computers in our home to provide for content filtering, or figure out a way to add a free or commercial device to our local network to provide content filtering. I had even been considering running an old computer with IPCop to provide content filtering. Those options are no longer needed. Now, whatever ANY computers connect to the Internet via our home network, they will be automatically content filtered. If someone has a question about a blocked site, they can directly click a link to email me, as the designated network administrator.
I don’t see this email feature being used at our home, but in an organization like our church I can certainly envision the potential benefits of this functionality.
Yeah for OpenDNS! I am eager to let members of the Digital Dialog social network know about this powerful and FREE option for providing a basic level of home or organizational content filtering! Certainly commercial content filtering schemes can provide a more robust level of control over Internet access, but OpenDNS will allow local network administrators to whitelist sites as desired. I think this is a GREAT solution, and could even be used by schools to comply with CIPA – for FREE.
If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes' free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes' newsletter online free!
Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and "eBook singles?" 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes' subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide! MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes' free magazine "iReading" on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also "like" Wes' Facebook page for "Speed of Creativity Learning". Don't miss Wesley's latest technology integration project, "Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?"
On this day..
- Virtual Spaces Increasingly Shape Our Learning - 2016
- 2015 Classroom Challenge: STEM Curiosity Links - 2015
- Why We Cancelled Our Hulu Plus Subscription - 2012
- Entrepreneurial Traits and Skills To Nurture in 2012 - 2012
- Tweets and Photos from Astronauts in Space: Consider the Possibilities! - 2011
- Welcome to Yarmouth High School: 8 Years of Successful 1:1 Learning - 2011
- K12Online09 on The Heartland Flyer - 2010
- Webapps as desktop apps with Prism and Fluid (site specific browsers - SSBs) - 2009
- Dinosaurs in Oklahoma and our initial museum iPod audio tour experience - 2009
- Updated content filtering wiki page - 2008