The router is the part of the home network that all other devices go through to connect to the internet. Typically it is connected to either a cable modem or DSL modem connected to your internet service provider. In most homes today the routers provide wired and wireless connectivity. So any device that has to use that router to get to the internet will be subject to the rules of that router. Therefore, it makes sense that the router would be the best place to start parental control filtering.
Some routers come with this capability. When you are shopping for a router look for a router that lists built-in parental controls as a feature. Netgear is an excellent brand for built-in parental controls, including Circle. Also consider purchasing a higher end router because if you ever want to set up a little more advance controls on your router (to prevent a determined teen from circumventing basic controls), the routers with that kind of capability are typically a little more expensive. Even if your router doesn’t come with built-in parental controls, companies like OpenDNS offer a quick and relatively easy solution. #ParentsNeedToKnow that as of this writing, the proprietary hardware involved in AT&T U-verse service does not allow parents to modify the settings on the U-verse router to use router-based controls such as OpenDNS. Some very technical people have had luck adding a second router that connects to the U-verse router but that has not been proven out in most cases.
OpenDNS offers a wide range of commercial network security services, but it also offers Domain Name Service to home users to provide content filtering, faster internet performance and phishing/malware protection. Because OpenDNS customer’s are primarily businesses, as of this posting they offer this service to home users for free or $19.95 per year depending upon which option you choose.
- Open DNS Family Shield – basic, non-customizable option – Free
- Open DNS Home – basic, customizable filtering – Free
- Open DNS Home VIP – customizable filtering, stats and support – $19.95 annually
The free versions of OpenDNS do not come with support, but the setup instructions provided by OpenDNS are good and the website knowledge base provides a means to find support information so you probably won’t need it. There are numerous categories to consider if you choose one of the customizable options.
The following web page provided by OpenDNS walks you through the process of configuring OpenDNS. In the setup process you will be taken to a page that lets you choose your router make and model which also provides further details. Additionally, most home users connect to the internet using something called a Dynamic IP Address as opposed to a Static IP Address. For this reason, if you choose either customizable option, you must install the OpenDNS Dynamic IP Updater for OpenDNS to work. The Updater is very easy to install and doesn’t get in the way or tax your system resources. A link to download the updater is provided on the configuration page but that link takes you to a page with a lot more technical and unnecessary information as well. A more direct link for the updater is list below.
Even after installing OpenDNS on a home network, parents need to evaluate each device their child uses to determine what additional controls are needed. Things to consider are the age of the child, where they typically use the device and whether it ever leaves your home where it could be connected to a network without filtering. #ParentsNeedToKnow about router-based parental controls.