Securing the Web for Your Kids with OpenDNS [Guide]

Note: This is not a “technical” post, any parent can set this up to make the web little more secure for their kids. Read on..

Update: 5 Oct 2017 – if you are looking for easy way to manage your kids’ internet safety, you should check Kaspersky Safe Kids out. Setup is very simple for it and UI is very user friendly.

I have three kids, all boys, eldest is 10 years old (Manas), followed by 7 years old (Aihan), and the youngest is 3 years old (Azat). Manas is now able to do his own research for his school assignments. Usually searching for specific topic in Google/Wikipedia. He is also into Minecraft. He follows some Minecraft YouTube Channels like DanTDMCaptain Sparklez, etc. He is almost entirely not watching any TV (he just joins in when Azat is watching some cartoons). He is either at the Home PC playing Minecraft or doing his homework, or on his iPad watching Minecraft videos and playing games. Home PC is located at the living room area, for obvious reasons.

I have talked to Manas and Aihan about basic security on Minecraft and the Web in general, such as;

  • Don’t give any specific info about where you study (school name, school address) and where you live (home address) to strangers in Minecraft. Just tell them general information, like I live in Malaysia etc.
  • I have explained to them that it’s ok to ignore people’s questions, you don’t have to always answer all the questions directed at you.
  • I have explained the possible consequences of the above points and how some people are not as they claim to be on the internet.
  • When you search for something in Google, use phrases instead of single keywords. Because single keywords are more likely to show something other than what you are looking for.
  • Can’t watch / play something that is violent with bloods, PG, PG13 etc.

Alhamdulillah, my kids are also very understanding, and they do their best to be good kids on their own. I don’t have to strictly monitor their browsing, watching or playing habits. In fact, they are the ones sometimes decline to go to cinema, because they perceive the movie to be too violent or not suitable to them..

Ok, these are given. How about those accidental things that might happen on the internet? Like clicking on a link or banner that might open an inappropriate website? You can teach your kids to be responsible (managing the pull factor) but we have to also try to protect them from push factors. And this is where OpenDNS comes to our ‘rescue’.

DNS (Domain Name System)

In layman’s terms, DNS is the layer that is located between your computer and the web, it allows you to connect to different websites on the web. DNS is normally managed by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). DNS also has a capability to block and unblock different websites.

Normally, DNSs will be managed by countries’ ISPs. And unless you live in a country that monitors the internet, most of the time ISPs do not really block websites.

OpenDNS

OpenDNS is a service, that provides DNS services. It allows you to block websites by category (e.g: gambling, adult etc.) or by URL or by Level (High Security, Moderate, Low and Custom). That means when you are using OpenDNS, all your connections (access to websites) will be going through OpenDNS and will get filtered based on the rules that you have setup.

opendns_block

Setting up OpenDNS

Setting up OpenDNS is pretty simple. First, register for an OpenDNS Home account. It’s free. Next, follow on what type of device you want to set it up. Normally, it’s your PC or Tablets/Smartphones. Click on the appropriate device icon to see the instructions for it. In the knowledge area, find the particular OS that you are using (e.g; Windows 7, 8 or 10).

opendns_select

Follow the steps on how to enter the IP Addresses of OpenDNS into your device’s internet connection settings. (For example if you are running Windows 10 on your laptop, click here). Once you have correctly set it up, click on the link (as shown below) to test your settings.

opendns_test

If your settings are correct, you should see a “Success!” notification as below.

opendns_success

After you have setup the connection successfully, login to your OpenDNS account. (Looks like their user flow is not correct, since they are missing “login” link at the end of the flow. Instead, they have a “sign up” link). Nevermind, click here to login to your account.

Add Network

After you login to your account, you should see a big button “Add a network”. Click on it to setup your Home network. You can then customize the filtering rules for it.

opendns_addnetwork

It’s best that you do the setup this portion at home, because it will require you to enter your Home IP Address. When you do it at home, it will auto-detect your IP Address, otherwise you have to remember and enter a correct IP Address. If you are at home – just click the button “Add this network”.

opendns_addnetworkip

In the next window, give a name to your network and press “Done”. If you don’t know whether you are using Dynamic IP Address, most probably you are, so leave that ticked.

opendns_namenetwork

To configure the rules further, click on the IP address as shown below.

opendns_clickip

Select the appropriate level or choose Custom to see different types of categories that you can block. Once you are satisfied with your selection, press”Apply”.

opendns_apply

You are now basically done. Depending on which filtering rules you have setup, some websites should be blocked when you type their URL in your browser.

If you want to use OpenDNS on your other devices, just follow the instructions in the Knowledge Base for those particular devices of yours and they too will be protected.

From time to time, you can login to your account and check Stats section to see how effectively OpenDNS has been protecting your family from inappropriate websites.

opendns_stats

Hope you benefited from this post. Let me know if you have any questions. Leave your comments below.

Note: Unfortunately, OpenDNS won’t be able to filter inappropriate videos within YouTube. For that, you should enable Restricted Mode in YouTube or YouTube apps in your handheld devices.

Related: The Concerned Parent’s Toolbox – 120 Tools and Tricks to Protect Your Kids