Family Friendly Internet: Free Tips for a Safer Home

These are the basic steps I have taken to getting family friendly internet and device usage in my home.  If you’re concerned that your kids are seeing things they shouldn’t or are tired of stumbling onto things yourself, these steps make it much less likely that anyones eyes will accidentally fall onto some of the terrible content that’s online.

What made me put these steps for Family Friendly Internet together?

I was trying to purchase school pictures this morning and mistyped the url from the form by one character.  You know what happens next; bam…ton’s of sinful garbage I don’t want to see spewed into my face during the morning coffee.  It’s not the first time it’s happened but I was finally motivated to try and make it the last time that garbage comes up by accident.

My Strategy

I do not believe it’s completely possible to block all of the filth.  If an intelligent person knows what they are doing, there are many ways to trick filters and other systems into letting you find content if you would like.  However, in this case, I have made it more difficult to either accidentally or intentionally find the garbage on my home network.

This only supplements the need for a strong policy on how and where devices can be used in the home.  In a world with so many social sites full of user uploaded content, at some point, anyone who wants to find the filth is going to find it.

  • Block Content at the Router
  • Limit Device Usage to Open Rooms

How to Block Content at the Router

Implement a content filtering policy at the router level so that every device connected to your network will have it’s content filtered.  Software filtering is too big of a pain since it requires an installation of every device.

Implement Basic Content Filtering

I use OpenDNS Family Shield to setup my router.  It’s very straightforward and there are really only two steps to getting free basic family filtering on your router.  Once this is setup, any device that connects to the wireless network will by default have a family friendly internet setup that can only connect to web domains that are considered appropriate for a family audience.

Point the router DNS static IP addresses to the OpenDNS family friendly filter IP Addresses:

208.67.222.123
208.67.220.123

Once the router is updated, restart your devices so that they will pick up the new DNS settings from the router.

Test after restarting using the link at the bottom of the OpenDNS Family Shield web page.

Note that this only “suggests” to every device on the network what DNS servers to use and that an adept user can override this from each device.

Limitations With Most Routers

Even after telling the router to use OpenDNS, safe sites like Google will still be able to find all the garbage.  While only the cached content will be there, using the safe search option on each search engine should keep the filth away.  In order to keep the garbage out of search engines, the average router cannot be setup to always force a Safe Search!

I am currently shopping for routers that can provide this level filtering.  I will update this post once I’ve found and tested a better router.  A koala router that was on kickstarter recently appears to be the best right now.

Restrict Device Usage

Finally, discourage or eliminate usage of devices behind closed doors.  No matter how good the routers get, there will be ways for smart kids to get past them.  Be especially careful with devices that have access to the mobile network since none of these steps will help with that problem.

In our home, we don’t allow devices into the bedrooms or bathrooms and when the kids are old enough for their own phones, they will stay downstairs as well.