Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Configuring FREE Home Content Filtering with OpenDNS

Following today’s fortuitous find of an Apple Airport Extreme Router for $40 at a local pawn shop, I needed to configure it for home content filtering as well as videoconferencing. After resetting the router to factory defaults, I turned it on (after power cycling my cable modem) and configured it to create a wireless network using the Airport Utility application on my laptop found in Applications / Utilities.

Next, I updated the firmware to the latest 7.5.2 version. The Airport Utility prompted me to install this update.

AirPort Utility - Updating Firmware to 7.5.2

Updating Airport Extreme Firmware

In addition to specifying the wifi network name name and password I wanted, I also added an IP address in the Internet / NAT settings of Airport Utility. I’m hoping this will be the same thing as setting an IP address in the “DMZ” of my Netgear router. This is the local IP address I use for my Tandberg videoconferencing unit, and it needs to be “in the DMZ” so it can receive incoming videoconferencing requests from the public Internet.

AirPort Utility - DMZ Setup

If you can confirm whether or not this is the right setting on an Apple Airport Extreme Router for a videoconferencing unit in the DMZ, I’d be most appreciative.

The last thing I needed to do was configure content filtering for our home network. I’m an outspoken advocate for balanced Internet content filtering in homes as well as schools. My personal conviction is even though eRate / CIPA mandates or other requirements aren’t relevant in home settings, it’s always a good idea to provide at least a basic level of content filtering to block pornography as well as known malware/phishing sites. The best solution I’ve found for this is OpenDNS, which can be used free. At some point OpenDNS was charging for an “OpenDNS Deluxe” package for home users, but I can’t find any pricing on their site now. It appears everything is free for home users.

After creating a free account on OpenDNS, the first configuration step is to enter the DNS numbers used by OpenDNS into your home router. The OpenDNS website provides clear instructions on how to do this with different kinds of routers.

DNS numbers operated by OpenDNS

By entering these two numbers into my router and restarting it, ALL wireless devices used in our house (including laptops, iPhones, iPod Touches, console game systems, and iPads) are automatically content filtered the same. It is NOT necessary to make any client-side / device-specific changes on those devices to enable content filtering. This is GREAT.

What IS required, however, is configuring your free account on OpenDNS with the content filtering settings you want. I opt for the “low” filtering options, which block pornography and ‘tasteless’ sites that I don’t really want to know more about.

OpenDNS Content Filtering Settings

After about three minutes, once those settings are saved, the OpenDNS filtering is active.

Blocked Domain - OpenDNS

No filtering or blocking scheme can provide a complete guarantee people on your network won’t access inappropriate or objectionable material, but in the three years our family has used OpenDNS on our network we’ve found it VERY helpful on multiple occasions. The network ‘logs’ OpenDNS keeps of blocked sites (including the date and time the sites were accessed) can be helpful to have conversations with others: If you see a spike in blocked sites, it’s probably time to have a talk with someone.

I’ve written about OpenDNS in the past and extolled its virtues. See the following past posts for more information:

Whatever type of wifi router you’re using at home, consider configuring it for FREE with OpenDNS. I’d encourage you NOT to get carried away selecting huge numbers of website categories to block on your network, as some IT administrators have in our public schools. Remember no technology solution can replace the importance of regular communication and conversations to promote a culture of digital accountability, both at home and elsewhere. That said, a basic level of content filtering can be a valuable ally as a parent in our digital age.

What are you doing regarding content filtering on your home network? Have you tried OpenDNS or other solutions? What are your opinions?

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