There’s no magic bullet when it comes to cyber safety, but the free OpenDNS Family Shield makes for a simple first line of defence.
Just like in the real world, there’s no substitute for parental supervision when it comes to staying safe online. You need to play an active role and take an interest in what your kids doing, rather than simply hand the job over to security software.
That said, there is still a place for security technological to assist with the task of keeping kids safe online. OpenDNS Family Shield is different to many options in that it’s not software which you run on your device. Instead it lets you change the Domain Name System (DNS) directory you use on in the background to look up websites. This makes it easy to block adult sites, other undesirable content and even some malicious software, instead pointing you to an OpenDNS warning page.
There are two ways to use OpenDNS Family Shield. One is to change the DNS settings on the individual devices you want to protect, and you’ll find easy instructions for computers, smartphones, tablets and other internet-enabled devices. You don’t need to install any software, which makes it easier to support a wide range of gadgets. The other way to use OpenDNS Family Shield is to change the DNS settings in your broadband router. This way all the devices connected to your home network will be protected.
The free OpenDNS Family Shield is a fixed service, you can’t modify which websites are or aren’t blocked. If you need granular control and want to block a wider range of websites then you might look to the free OpenDNS Home or the paid VIP option which includes internet usage statistics and customer support.
In order to work these Home and VIP services need to know your home IP address, to ensure they’re applying the correct settings. If you don’t have a fixed or “static” IP address, and it changes every time you reboot your broadband modem, then you’ll need to run software on your computer to tell OpenDNS what your IP address is. You don’t need this software if you’re using OpenDNS Family Shield, because there are no configurable options so every user gets the same level of protection.
OpenDNS’ various options are not 100 percent foolproof – no technical solution is. But it offers an effective first line of defence to help stop young children accidentally stumbling across inappropriate content. It also aims to hamper child who actively go in search of such content, as it blocks traditional workarounds like proxy servers and anonymisers. Of course where there’s a will there’s a way and you might fight yourself in a technological game of cat and mouse with tech-savvy teenagers.
If you’re unsure how to keep your kids safe online then OpenDNS is easy to use and adds a basic first line of defence while you consider other options. It’s a handy tool, but don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. Parental supervision is still the most important tool at your disposal.