Tools for Online Safety
As children begin using devices at younger and younger ages, it is important to understand the options available for making sure the internet And devices are safe for young users. At New Suffolk School we have an on-site content filter that keeps students from accessing inappropriate content when in the building, while also taking advantage of the built-in restrictions on our iPads to limit functionality when needed. In this post I am going to highlight some of the options parents have to secure their internet and devices at home.
OpenDNS is a service that works at the router level provide content-filtering for your home internet. There is a little configuration that needs to be done, but anyone who has setup their wireless router shouldn't have too much trouble getting this setup. After signing up for OpenDNS, setup only requires making one small change in the router's configuration.
There are a few different levels of service offered by OpenDNS: * OpenDNS Home * OpenDNS Family Shield * OpenDNS Home VIP * OpenDNS Umbrella (Business Class)
OpenDNS Home & Family Shield are both free services, aimed at helping parents secure their home internet connections. Their Home VIP service is a paid version that offers more features. An added benefit of using OpenDNS is that in most cases it will also help speed up your internet connection too*.
If your family has iPhones, iPads, or iPod touches at home, you can take advantage of the powerful parental controls built into the devices. Apple calls these controls Restrictions and they are a way to limit what your devices can do. To enable Restrictions, open Settings and scroll down and tap on Restrictions. To turn the restrictions on flip the switch at the top of the screen and set the passcode. This passcode ensures that only you can turn Restrictions on and off. At this point just go through the list and turn on and off what you'd like.
Here is a small sample of what you can do with Restrictions: * Safari * Camera (also disables FaceTime) * FaceTime * iTunes Store * In-App Purchases *Set Age Rating for apps, books, music, and movies * And much more!
To view a complete list of restrictions and get more information on those restrictions, Apple provides a great page here.
Curbi is a new product that offers parents even greater control over their children's use of the internet on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. After signing up for the service, you follow their super simple setup process for enrolling your devices in the service. Once enrolled you can set even greater restrictions then Apple provides. Curbi provides parents with a way to set time based access limits, and view what kind of things their children are doing on the internet. If you want to block Facebook until after dinner to ensure that children are focusing on their homework and chorus, Curbi is a perfect match. The controls are very fine grained.
While these tools are great for restricting the content your children have access to, it is just as important to explain these restrictions to them as it is to have them in place. An open dialogue explaining that these restrictions aren't a punishment, but just a way to help protect them. I also think that it is important to outline how and when certain restrictions can be lifted, especially when discussing the iOS specific restrictions for things like iMessage or FaceTime.
*To get a bit more technical for a moment, OpenDNS has you use their DNS servers in place of the ones provided by your internet service. In almost all cases the servers provided by OpenDNS are faster then the ones from your ISP. Personally I use their service at my house for this benefit alone.