As Christians in the digital age, there is perhaps nothing more valuable than protecting ourselves and our kids from the onslaught of pornographic content online.
First, a brief tutorial on how the internet works. If you are not interested and want to skip straight through to the how-to of setting up a filter, skip to point 1 below.
Every website on the internet lives on a server somewhere. Those servers have numeric strings as addresses, called Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. For example, the server that this website (and all of the sites I own) lives on is at 188.8.131.52. Don’t believe me? Paste that string into your browser address bar. It’ll take you to the home directory for my server, where I’ve put a kind note directing you to what you are likely looking for.
In order to make everyone’s business cards shorter, we don’t have to remember that really long string to get to this site, we just have to remember a name. Every Internet Service Provider (ISP) has a server specifically set to route traffic from the domain name to the actual server where the content lives. This server is called a Domain Name Server, or DNS.
It’s like a telephone operator matching your phone number to your name and patching you through, only this operator matches and connects domain names to server IP addresses.
By default, your router or modem is preconfigured to connect to the DNS of your ISP. Those servers are almost completely undiscriminating. It’s part of the power of the Internet that it is unfiltered by service providers. The ethics of state or provider sponsored filtering are complex. It’s a short path from filtering to censorship when the end user is not pulling the strings.
But because the architecture of the Internet includes DNS, we the end user can leverage that to filter content at that point, by having a server which keeps a list of all the bad sites and intercepts the device trying to get to those sites and stops them.
Problem: who has the time to manage such a DNS? Enter an amazing company named OpenDNS.
They’ve set up such a server and constantly add sites with objectionable content to its list! They call this specific server the “Family Shield” DNS. It’s preconfigured, set-it-and-forget-it. Best yet, they allow you to connect for free to their “Family Shield” DNS.
So the simple procedure is to head over to this forum page and simply type in the type of router you own. From there, the page will walk you through step by step instructions on how to configure your specific router.
Important: if you want to use the “Family Shield” server that is pre-configured to block pornography, use these servers in place of the servers the tutorial suggests:
Once you set everything up (in most cases it will require rebooting your router or modem) you can test the settings by clicking here
A few things to note:
- This only filters the traffic going through this specific router. So if for example your phone is not connected to wi-fi and instead is going over the cellular connection, there’s no filtering taking place. There are ways to modify the DNS over cell connections for both iPhones/iPads and Android devices, but all of the solutions require jailbreaking or rooting of the device, which opens other potentially nefarious channels on the device.
- If you have unsecured wi-fi networks other than yours in range of your kids’ devices, (a neighbor’s router, for example) they are not safe.
- Your kids are probably more savvy than you, and if they go looking for smut, they’ll be able to find it. There is no solution that allows a parent to stop paying attention. Remain vigilant in prayer and keep paying attention.
Step 2 (optional)
On the above-linked page to test the settings, you will likely be prompted to set up an account. This is helpful to get things like reporting on what sites have been blocked, and to further configure things. There’s also a paid option that gives you much finer control over things, and only costs something absurdly low like $20 PER YEAR.
I could not be more passionate about this topic. I will walk anyone through how to set up this type of filtering, absolutely free of charge. Email me at Ben (at) churchwebhelp (dot) com and get your family protected today!