Do you use content filtering on your home network? (This free PollEverywhere survey will permit 30 people to vote on this question.)
I’ve written in the past about how draconian the content filters are in most of our Oklahoma public schools relative to countries with fewer legal freedoms for citizens like China. I am definitely an advocate for differentiated content filtering in our schools as well as reasonable content filtering, which recognizes that ultimately we want to help our students “become the filter” rather than attempting to block out most of the interactive web in the naive belief that authorities can “block all the bad and distracting stuff out.” In the United States content filtering is the law for schools and libraries receiving E-Rate funding, but the form and degree to which Internet content is filtered is left up to local authorities. I think a basic level of content filtering is not only a good and prudent idea for organizational networks (like schools) but also a very good idea for home networks. The proliferation of WiFi capable devices in our own home including laptops and iPods makes our need for “network level” content filtering which does not rely on software or settings specific to individual devices even more apparent.
A year ago I discovered the free service OpenDNS which provides customizable content filtering at the router level of your network, which means ALL DEVICES connected to your network can be content filtered.
OpenDNS is relatively easy to circumvent, since a user can simply put alternative DNS addresses into their Internet device to bypass the filters, but this is not something many casual users are likely to do and I think the service can provide an excellent level of basic content filtering. It is also free and compatible with all routers, as far as I know, so I think it’s fairly easy to make the case for using this at home. I’ve written previously about OpenDNS in several past posts. Today, after using OpenDNS for a little over a year, I still have nothing but praise for the service and functionality it offers. As you might expect, I don’t have our home network ridiculously locked down, but I do have a basic level of content filtering in place. Since we just run Apple computers at our home, our potential risks from adware/malware are minimal, but I think it’s still a good idea to have that type of content filtering enabled as well as phishing protection. Nothing is a 100% guarantee of safety, of course, but these selections make sense to me.
Having available checkboxes to block all website categories like “blogs” and “webmail” make me cringe, however. Sadly, many of our public school districts in Oklahoma DO (often through the filtering companies they utilize) block website categories like these. In a way, it is ridiculous to block an entire category of websites like “blogs.” That is like saying, “We’re not allowing any pencils to be used in our school, because sometimes students write inappropriate notes and we can’t stand for that possibility.” Certainly like any other tool, a blog can be used in a hurtful, destructive or inappropriate way. Blogs also can be used in wonderful and constructive ways as well, of course. Your reading and utilization of this blog post for your own continuing education is likely a case in point. Hopefully someday we’ll get beyond our current mindset (in some circles) that “all blogs should be blocked.” That is an ignorant perception which can significantly limit the potential for constructive learning on the part of others, IMHO.
Are there other reasonable, free solutions out there which are better than OpenDNS for home content filtering? I don’t think OpenDNS seems to have very good reporting features in terms of its statistics when it comes to blocked domain requests, but at this point that is not a real big deal for me. Still, it would be nice to have in the future. As I’ve written previously, common sense approaches to Internet Safety involve LOTS of regular dialog between family members about Internet use and activities. Technology can never be a substitute for conversations and good, open lines of communication. Technology can play reasonable roles in helping establish limits and boundaries, however, and that is an essential part of parenting.
What are you doing in terms of content filtering at home?
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