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Protecting your children online

Preventing children from accessing inappropriate content on the Internet is a vital aspect of online safety.  We believe the parents and carers of children are best placed to control what should and should not be filtered on their internet connections.

With so many households now having a multitude of Internet connected devices parental controls can implemented at the router or broadband connection, so that every device using that connection is protected.  With this in mind we would like to bring to your attention an effective yet free solution that allows you to do just that with the use of the OpenDNS service by making a configuration change in your home router.

While we cannot endorse this or indeed support it ourselves should you choose to use it, we still feel it is worthy of a mention as some of our own staff members, myself and our Head of Product Management & Marketing included, have used it on our own home connections.

OpenDNS are a US based security company that provides easy-to-implement Internet navigation and Web security solutions for families, schools, government organisations and businesses of various sizes.  Some of their security and parental control services are free and can prevent unintended access to phishing and malware sites as well as to any Web content that you would like to be restricted.

For the purpose of this article we are focusing our attention on the basic parental control option as that is free to all Internet users.

How does it work?

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a crucial component to the Internet that is “invisible” to most users.   Think of DNS as an address book for websites.  It is responsible for translating website names into IP Addresses  which are used by computers to communicate with each other.

For example, when you entered the Web address www.zen.co.uk, your computer connected to the DNS and found that the computer of the Zen website is at the IP address 212.23.8.1 Your computer can now interact with our computer systems as you navigate around our website.

When you configure your router to use OpenDNS the Internet browsers, email systems and other Web applications connected via your router will use OpenDNS to translate a web address to an IP address.  For a web address that OpenDNS regards as inappropriate it will not provide a translation to an IP address, this blocks  access from you connection to that address.

Please Note; It will only protect devices within the network that the DNS is set up on so while your router is set with OpenDNS settings it would not protect if you use differing DNS settings per device.

Why is it free and what’s the catch?

It’s free because online safety is important as is the overall security of the Internet in which we all play an important part. There is no catch as OpenDNS provides free and paid for services depending on what you prefer to use.

What does it block/filter?

OpenDNS Basic provides three predefined, easy-to-use filtering levels that block adult content and other inappropriate contents making it very simple to set-up.  You can also customize the Web categories to filter or allow access only to the websites you specify.

In addition, when a user attempts to visit a blocked website they will be directed to a landing page provided by OpenDNS, but customisable by you. If you provide your email address on this page, your users can contact you with questions. Attempts to visit blocked pages are also saved in reports that you can view from your OpenDNS account.

OpenDNS Basic also automatically blocks known identity theft, phishing, malware and botnet websites too not just inappropriate content.

What happens when I change my DNS Settings?

Changing your current DNS settings to the OpenDNS servers is a safe, reversible, and beneficial configuration adjustment that will not harm your computer or your network. There is no software being installed and all configurations for security, Web content filtering and personal preferences are made online in your OpenDNS account, not on your computer or network hardware.

I have to say once I registered my details with OpenDNS it was very easy to set-up and best of all I have not seen any impact on the speed of my internet connection either.  To decide which option of suits you and your needs best, please follow this link http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/parental-controls/

We will continue to work on and build up our Internet safety advice with similar articles as we firmly believe education and awareness for our customers is important.

For further information on online safety the following is very useful  www.knowthenet.org.uk


    About Gary

    I’m pleased to say I joined Zen as their Senior Operations Manager in December 2006. Bringing with me many years management experience, 17 of these were in a senior capacity within the ISP and Telecommunications industry working for many leading brand names that you might recall such as Prestel Online, Breathe Online, Planet Online, ScottishTelecom (Demon), Iomart (Madasafish and VirginBiz), Videonetworks (Homechoice) and many more. During this time I have seen numerous changes in the ISP industry, some positive and some less so. I've always engaged in regulatory affairs specific to the ISP industry and have represented companies I've worked for over many years at Industry level including working with the wider ISP community, ISPA, Linx, Government agencies and regulatory bodies such as Ofcom. I'm a keen advocate for self-regulation and the development of the Internet industry as a whole not just the ISP’s I work for. I took up my current role as Regulatory Manager in order to represent Zen as their ambassador within the industry and to government particularly given the intense scrutiny of our wider industry from within the political and regulatory framework that governs us. Outside of work I'm an avid collector of Punk, Post Punk and New Wave related music and memorabilia hence my interest in online music and the issues associated with file sharing and similar. You'll sometimes see subtle and not so subtle references of this interest in some of my posts and online wittering’s.
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    2 Responses to Protecting your children online

    1. John Blauth says:

      For those of us who are not ‘masters of the universe’ in either IT or indeed any technical matters, I am curious to know why you deem this worthy of comment yet disclaim any responsibility for its use: “While we cannot endorse this or indeed support it ourselves should you choose to use it, we still feel it is worthy of a mention.”
      If it’s good, and it works, why would you not endorse it? Or, asks my cynical media mind, is this just a blog designed to till your digital garden in the hopes of SEO yield and not a customer service at all?

      • Gary says:

        We are unable to endorse it because it is a third party service that we have no control over and are not directly providing ourselves. However as staff like myself have used the most basic offering and found it very easy to do we thought it was worth highlighting to our customers.

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