Chap Three – OpenDNS Settings (Whole House Router Based Parental Controls)

OpenDNS is the DNS (Domain Name System) host that is going to be used in place of the default one that is provided by your Internet service provider. Unlike the default DNS, this one can be customized to filter out categories of websites, such as porn, social media and search engines. Go to opendns.com and choose Personal. Then choose “Parental Controls” and open up a free account. It’s fairly intuitive. Once that is set up, close your browser, open it again and go to OpenDNS.com and login to your account. You should then see the screen below.

open 1

Then choose your network (only one is allowed) and choose “Web Content Filtering”. The screen shown below should appear.

Untitled 1

If you look at the screenshot above, notice the domains under the heading “NEVER BLOCK”. Google.com and http://www.google.com MUST always be “Never blocked” for the parental controls to work properly, along with having checked the “Search Engines” category in the list above. This is critical. The only search engine allowed is Google, and it is always forced into safe mode by the customized RT router firmware settings. The other settings are up to you, and everyone will have a different set of requirements.

YouTube is very problematic. It’s all or nothing. You can choose to block it or allow it, but there is no safe mode for YouTube. If you want to block YouTube completely, just add the domain name to the “Always block” heading (not shown but it’s a drop down list when you click on the “Always block” button above.

If you want to permit YouTube, that’s more difficult. Note all the domains listed in the “Never Block” section above. You will have to add all of these domains to your own “Never Block” list. I have listed them below for your cut and paste convenience.

youtube.com
http://www.youtube.com
ytimg.com
http://www.ytimg.com
googlevideo.com
http://www.googlevideo.com
s.youtube.com
http://www.s.youtube.com
i.ytimg.com
s.ytimg.com

If you don’t do this, the YouTube web page is displayed as a jumbled mess that cannot be navigated.

There are a few things you must do to maintain this parental control system.

Very Important: You should download the IP Address updater from OpenDNS. This utility makes sure that your filters are blocking your current IP address. Otherwise the filters will stop working. A dynamic IP address will change from time to time, especially after power outages and purposeful release/renews. This IP updater can be put on a PC that is connected to either the main router or the RT. Do NOT put it on a laptop or tablet that leaves the house. If you do, it will update the OpenDNS IP address with an IP address from outside your network and the filtering will stop working.

As an alternative to the updater, you can manually change the IP address. It’s not very clear on the web page below. Look for the green arrows after the IP address in the screen shot below. If you hover over it, it asks if you want to update your IP address. Answer in the affirmative. The green arrows will only appear if your current IP address is different than the registered IP address. That means if you see the green arrows, you should update the IP address (if you are at the location being filtered).

change ip

The administrators should test the parental controls using a computer on the subnet often to ensure that the filtering, ad blocking and forced safe search are working. Login to OpenDNS and check your IP address status every day or so, or use the automatic updater. Even with that, the web page should still be checked every day or so, just to make sure. It just takes a few seconds.

Test the filtering thoroughly now, and every few days afterwards. Don’t just assume it works and always will.

Remember changes you make to OpenDNS take 10 minutes to become active. Try searching for nasty stuff using every search engine you can think of. All search engines but Google should be blocked. If they appear at all, you need to tweak your OpenDNS settings. The “Search Engines” category by itself might not be enough. You may also need to choose “Visual Search Engines” and “Video Sharing”. If nothing you do will block a particular search engine, then you need to add it to the “Always Block” list.

Everything should be good to go, save for tweaking the OpenDNS settings and checking that your IP address is updated on a regular basis. Leave me a comment if you have any ideas, observations or have spotted any errors. And good luck to you!

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