Even if you’ve already set up device-specific restrictions on your kids’ devices, you still need to filter the wireless signal in your home.
How To Filter the Wireless Signal in Your Home
Though many families have set up device specific restrictions for their kids, many have no idea of the doorways they’ve left wide open simply from having a wireless network in their home!
Anyone with access to your wireless network (and that’s anyone, if your wifi isn’t password protected, and anyone with your password if your wifi is password protected) can access pornography or other explicit material right inside the four walls of your home. This includes friends, relatives, babysitters, guests, or anyone else who might stop over.
I strongly recommend using a free resource called OpenDNS to help prevent visitors to your home from accessing inappropriate content while on your property or in your home.
Open-DNS Quick Start ::
If you’re ready to get OpenDNS up and running in your home, follow the steps below. If you want to read more about what OpenDNS does, what the benefits are, and some of the drawbacks, skip down to the next section.
- Visit OpenDNS and set up an account.
- Choose between Family Shield (all filters pre-set for you) or OpenDNS Home (which allows you to customize the filtering categories you want applied to your wireless network).
- Follow the set-up guides given by OpenDNS. If you’re new to wireless settings, these will take some time and might be a little intimidating, but I urge you not to skip this crucial filter! Take it slow, go step by step. You can do this! (Or, ask a friend who will help you get it set up!)
- Optional :: If you’d like every website visited on your wireless network to be logged and recorded, upgrade to their “Home VIP” program ($19.95 per year).
- Add an additional layer of protection. Every system has its loopholes and caveats. I strongly recommend adding one of these tools to help protect your kids. (Currently, our favorite is Circle and Circle Go from Disney.)
If you decide against adding an additional layer of protection, make sure you enable and lock-in Google SafeSearch and then block all other major search engines besides Google so that any searches will be directed through Google SafeSearch settings. (Do this in your OpenDNS account settings. Add other major search engines to the “always block” list.)
What does Open-DNS do?
OpenDNS is a free service (with paid options, too) which allows you to mark what kind of filters you want to enable.
By default, your standard DNS Server is your internet provider (Comcast Xfinity, ATT, etc). These standard DNS Servers do not block or filter anything, and you have full access to everything everywhere.
In OpenDNS, you set the filters you want by choosing which categories of websites you deem unsafe (from pornography to violence, gambling, and many other topics). Then once you’ve replaced your standard DNS server settings with the server settings from OpenDNS, content will be appropriately blocked according to your filter settings.
OpenDNS essentially filters your DNS Server (which is what translates a websites name into an IP address), to filter out what you don’t want coming into your home.
In a nutshell you simply need to ::
- Set the filters.
- Swap the server settings.
- Double-check content is filtered.
So if a child, after accidentally typing in a wrong website, would have have been directed to an explicit website, OpenDNS would block them.
OpenDNS filters far more than pornography. Chatroom sites, lingerie sites, social media, and many other sites based on a variety of topics, can be restricted. You can also specify specific websites to block. This is extremely helpful if you want to block YouTube (from a browser window) or any other site from being accessed on your wireless network.
Another benefit of OpenDNS is its ability to filter any device using your network. This includes someone bringing a new device into your home when over for a play-date, sleepover, birthday party, or babysitting. Every device using your wifi network will be limited to your set filtering choices.
Know the Loopholes
Though OpenDNS is a very helpful option, it is important to know there are loopholes even with this type of filtering.
For example, if someone googled something, the Google search results will be pulled up unfiltered, thus allowing a person to see full images without clicking through to any site. It is only when they click on one of the search result links that they’d be blocked.
This is why it’s so important to to protect and filter even search results by setting up Google SafeSearch.
Another loophole is the ability to
- access content through an app and
- access content through a cellular data plan.
–> For information on how to filter, limit, and block apps that could act as a conduit around the content you’re trying to filter, read :: “The Danger of Apps and a Few You Might Now Know About.”
–> If your child is on a device without a data plan (access is only through Wifi) your OpenDNS settings should catch and filter most issues. However, if your child is on a device with a cellular data plan, they can simply turn off WiFi and still access any internet content without your WiFi filtering restricting them.
To guard against this on an iPad or iPhone, go to
- Settings –> Cellular –> and turn off any web browser or app you don’t want to have internet access using cellular data. This forces your child to access these sites only through WiFi.
- Settings –> General –>Restrictions –> Cellular Data –> under Cellular, click “Don’t Allow Changes”
What about When they Leave the House?
Though OpenDNS helps to protect your kids when they’re at home on your WiFi network, what options do you have when they leave your house?
First, make sure you’re having conversations around these topics and keep the lines of communication open. Then make sure you have some of the following filtering options in place.
- Set up device specific restrictions.
- Set up Google SafeSearch on your kids’ devices.
- Use on-the-go software to help protect your kids. Our favorite options currently are Circle with Circle Go by Disney OR Mobicip (if your kids have a Chromebook, you will definitely want to use Mobicip, one of the few filtering-services available for Chromebooks.)
I know it seems daunting when you really start to go down the road of filtering all of the possibilities for your family on a daily basis, but don’t lose hope!
Take one step, one day at a time. Every little bit helps, and educating yourself and staying aware of new trends and options puts you that much closer to protecting your kids.