I was recently approached by a family with older children wanting to know how to protect their kids online. My kids are currently too young to use the internet, but I know that day is coming soon. In an effort to help this family and to protect my own kids, I decided to research various types of internet filtering.
When researching solutions I looked for options that were effective, easy for parents to use and involved little or no cost. I didn’t want cost to be a hindrance for families on a tight budget. My research led me to two solutions, K9 Web Protection and OpenDNS.
K9 Web Protection
K9 Web Protection is free internet filtering software and is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android devices. I tested K9 Web Protection’s Windows and iPad (iOS) products during my research.
I found the Windows version of K9 Web Protection very easy to setup and configure. The Windows version is full of features that can be customized to meet your family’s needs. Features include a customizable web filter, detailed logs of activity, set time limits on internet use and an override feature for parents. K9 Web Protection for Windows does a great job at blocking harmful content while providing user friendly features for parents.
The iOS version of K9 Web Protection differs from the Window’s version and doesn’t include as many features. K9 for iOS uses its own web browser that is pre-configured to provide internet filtering. The K9 web browser does a good job blocking inappropriate sites but it doesn’t include the customizable filter, activity logs or override features found in the Windows version. The iOS K9 Web Protection also does not provide content filtering in other apps, just web browsing.
I do like that the iOS version provides browser filtering wherever you go on your mobile device. It doesn’t matter if your child is using a wifi connection or a data plan their internet browsing will be protected.
- Free website filtering that can be used on Windows, Apple and Android devices.
- The K9 Web Protection software blocks sites containing Malware and Spyware in addition to inappropriate content.
- Monitor what sites your kids are accessing on your home PC.
- Parents can easily configure the internet filter to meet their family’s needs (Windows).
- Block internet use at specific times such as at night (Windows)
- Safe search functionality is automatically enabled for all major search engines.
What are the weaknesses of K9 Web Protection?
- Software must be installed on each computer or device you want protected.
- The iOS version for iPads, iPhones and iPods only provides browser filtering. Apps are not filtered for inappropriate content.
- K9 Web Protection is unable to filter images and language found on social media. Social media sites can be blocked as a whole but the content is not filtered.
Learn more about K9 Web Protection
OpenDNS is a service that routes internet traffic from your home to servers that provide automatic content filtering. The great thing about OpenDNS is there is no software to install and its free. You only need access to change the DNS settings on your router to send internet traffic through OpenDNS’s web filtering. OpenDNS has even provided detailed instructions that walk you through the process of configuring the most commonly used routers.
OpenDNS provides 3 levels for home internet filters to choose from:
- FamilySheild – A pre-configured filter to block adult content, simply change the DNS settings on your router to use the OpenDNS’s addresses and you are done.
- OpenDNS Home – A customizable filter that allows you block specific categories of websites. Exceptions can be added to the filter to always block or allow certain website addresses. Web based monitoring is also provided so you can see what sites have been accessed or blocked on your home network. You must sign up for a free account with OpenDNS Home in order to customize your filter and to monitor internet activity.
- OpenDNS Home VIP – For only $20 per year you can get increased customer support and more in depth filtering and reporting options. I have not tried the VIP option but $20 per year is a very reasonable price for increased controls and support.
- OpenDNS provides free filtering for every device that connects to your wireless network which includes laptops, tablets, mobile devices and even gaming devices such as Playstations or Xboxs.
- Devices brought into your house by your children’s friends and other guests are protected from inappropriate websites while using the internet at your house.
- No software to install or maintain ensures all devices are properly being protected at all times.
- Create a customized a filter to meet your family’s needs with OpenDNS Home.
- Web based monitoring allows you to view internet activity at your house no matter where you are. I did find that K9 Web Protection provided more comprehensive internet monitoring compared to OpenDNS.
- Automatic anti-phishing and identity theft protection blocks malicious websites that try to steal personal information.
What are the weaknesses of OpenDNS?
- OpenDNS lacks some of the detailed parental controls found in K9 Web Protection such as set time restrictions.
- Inappropriate content on social media is not blocked. You can only block entire social media sites.
- Content found on apps for mobile devices and tablets are not filtered.
- Google image search and other image based search engines can still display inappropriate content.
Lean more about OpenDNS
I found that both K9 Web Protection and OpenDNS blocked a wide variety inappropriate content. You can actually use K9 Web Protection and OpenDNS together for even more comprehensive web filtering. Seeing how both options are free, it just make sense for families with children to use these services to help protect their kids online.
While K9 Web Protection and OpenDNS are very effective neither is perfect. No filtering software removes parents from the responsibility of knowing what your child is doing online, they are merely tools to help parents. Consistent parental involvement is the biggest key to keeping your child safe online.
My friend Jon at DadisLearning.com did a great job addressing the challenges of parenting in the internet age. I recommend you read his post for additional tips and advice on how to protect your kids online.
I also recommend using Adblock Plus on your browsers for blocking ads on websites. Adblock Plus prevents all ads, inappropriate or otherwise from displaying on webpages you visit. Adblock Plus is a free and can be used for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome browsers.