My 8-year-old niece slept over our house over the weekend. As I was watching her sit behind the family iMac, I saw her search for “My Little Pony”. Her first hit was an OpenDNS blocked porn site. You see, searching “My Little Pony” does not always return the results you would expect. However, instead of being exposed to something that 8 year olds should never see, she got the OpenDNS block screen and moved on. I have to admit I was shocked (though I probably shouldn’t have been). My niece didn’t even realize what had happened. In a few minutes, she had found the site she was looking for and was very pleased with Pinky Pie. My takeaway is that now, more than ever, perfectly innocent kids can find all sorts of things they shouldn’t see without trying. In short, I believe in OpenDNS now more than ever.
If you’re not familiar with it, OpenDNS is a free service that offers to replace your local Internet service provider’s domain name server (DNS). (DNS is, essentially, the address book of the Internet connecting words like “macsparky.com” with the ones and zeroes behind the Internet.) A lot of ISP’s have pretty crummy DNS services and OpenDNS is usually faster at getting you between where you are and where you want to go.
OpenDNS does more than just DNS service though. It also does tracking and, if you please, filtering. I’ve got the “moderate” filter turned on preventing any computer, iPad, iPhone or other iThingy in my house from connecting to porn sites or other red-flagged security threats. It is really easy to set this up. My pal Katie Floyd even made a video showing you how (below). They also have video tutorials and walkthoughs for every major brand of router. This isn’t rocket science.
The only downside that I’ve ever heard is that some people report streaming content through iTunes (like movies) is sometimes slower when using OpenDNS than when using your local ISP. One clever friend explained this is because Apple will pick the streaming server based on your location and OpenDNS doesn’t give them that. I’ve not noticed a difference between OpenDNS and my local cable company for streaming iTunes so it is not an issue for me.
Not only do I think anyone that has kids on their network should enable OpenDNS, I also think us alpha nerds should be pushing this out to our family, friends, and loved ones. I’ve decided I’m going on offense with this and am going to start setting it up for friends and family on their home routers. Kids should be able to search “My Little Pony” without finding something that would give me nightmares.