At my seminars, I highly recommend that families use OpenDNS’ free Family Shield product for the computers their children access. I wanted to take some more time and space online to explain just why this tool is so outstanding and a great ‘first step’ to protecting your children.
First, it’s important for parents to know what DNS is. DNS stands for Domain Naming System, and as a simplified explanation it is the Internet’s phone book. Computers that are publicly accessible all have registered, unique IP addresses, such as 22.214.171.124. And you can type these IP addresses directly into your favorite Internet browser, if you’d like, but no one can possibly remember all those numbers for every site they access. Besides, they can change, multiple IP Aadresses can serve the same resource (for example, the number i used in the examples is one of dozens or even hundreds of IP addresses involved in CNN.com), etc. So we look up names by common names, which is so much easier to remember.
So every device connected to the Internet is supplied with information on how to reach a DNS server. In your company the DNS server (or servers) may be a local server, at home it may be your Internet router, AT&T’s or Verizon’s servers, etc. But they all serve to look up the IP address for what you are trying to find. If you type www.impactyourit.com in your browser window, your computer checks your DNS Server for the info. If it can’t find it, then it uses a ‘root hint’ to query one of the servers that maintains the information for the .com address. The .com server then directs you to the DNS server that hosts the impactyourit.com information, and so on. But DNS is JUST a lookup tool. It simply supplies an address, forwards your request to another server, or replies that no record exists. There is no logic that determines the purpose of the site you are going to, or whether or not it is healthy for your PC to connect to it.
Enter OpenDNS. For years, they have published a ‘smarter’ version of DNS. Basically, they maintain a blacklist of sites that are known adult sites, malware or hacker sites designed to infect your PC with nasty viruses, ‘phishing’ sites designed to steal your personal information and more. If the site your child types in the browser (or clicks on a link, whether on purpose or accident, etc) is on that blacklist, it simply replies with a ‘site not found’. So for many of the worst sites, your child is unable to access the information to locate the ‘bad stuff’ on the Internet.
You may be thinking to yourself that this sounds pretty technical, right? It can be, but the Family Shield install wizard has dozens and dozens of tutorials that explain how to set this on your Internet computer or router from your ISP (such as AT&T, Comcast, etc). The wizard when you sign up on OpenDNS’s site is pretty thorough and can walk you through setting this up. You can also likely call your ISP for help, or even contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
Please note that this is only ONE measure to keep your child away from sites that you might not want them to visit, and it is not complete. New sites, particulary viral or phishing sites, are configured and/or ‘hacked’ every day. But it is certainly a quick and free step to create a barrier between your computer system and many of the places on the Internet that you don’t want your children to stumble upon.
You can register and configure OpenDNS for free here: http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/parental-controls/