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Three Ways to Protect Your Kids & Church
The internet is like a big city. There are some wonderful sections, like dear old PastorGear (shameless plug) and then there are some seedier parts of town too. Obviously, keeping your kids out of the bad parts of town is a major priority. Keeping your staff or anyone using your wi-fi safe from wandering into something they should see is important too. Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to put some barriers between your computer networks and the bad guys.
1. Safe Eyes
Safe Eyes is a produced by the folks at InternetSafety.com. It’s their home product and it works very well. I’ve been using it for many, many years and I highly recommend it. Safe Eyes is an application that you install on you PCs to protect your family from all sorts of issues. It not only blocks access to porn but it also allows you to control whether or not your kids can give anyone their names online or participate in chat rooms. You have a ton of options with this product and you can customize it to fit your needs. You can set things like the hours your kids are allowed online, whether they are allowed to make purchases, and tons more.
It’s truly the best app of it’s kind out there today. Heck, even Dave Ramsey endorses it so you know it’s got to be good. The only downside with something like this is that you have to install the client. If you’re looking for a solution that doesn’t require installation check out the next two suggestions.
Every computer on your network uses DNS (Domain Name Server) to look up every site they access. They can’t access a site without looking up the IP number first. ScrubIT is a brilliant service because they offer their own free DNS service and simply refuse to provide the IP addresses of pornographic sites. Instead, they send you to a ScrubIT page telling you the site is off limits.
What’s great about this is how simple it is. All you have to do is change the DNS setting on your main router from pointing to your ISP provided DNS to ScrubIT’s DNS and you’re in business. Their DNS IP numbers are plastered all of the site but they are 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 if you just want to know. Again, this is an easy “set it and forget it” option.
OpenDNS is the exact same idea as ScrubIT. They simply replace your DNS service with their own. Where OpenDNS shines is in it’s ability to be customized. You can create settings for each network you administer and make all kinds of changes.
You can add sites you’d like to block and white-list sites you’d like to open. (Some services block news sites which can be a pain.) You can also ratchet up the whole thing and block “time wasters” such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. I’m not a big fan of that sort workplace policy but it is an option with OpenDNS.
Their basic service is free but they also offer a pro version. If you get the pro version, you can also get things like reports which tell you what sites are being accessed and such. If you need reporting, this is the option for you.
OpenDNS also offers an app which you can install that will monitor your DNS settings and always switch them to OpenDNS’s servers. You need to understand, however, that this is on a per computer basis and the app will not switch your entire network over. It will only switch the PC that it’s installed on. To switch your network you’ll need to change the settings on your router or DHCP server.
The bottom line is that this is the DNS service to use if you want to have a great deal of control and you know what you’re doing technically. Just like ScrubIT their DNS IP numbers are listed on the site but in case you just want to know they are 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11.
I would recommend installing Safe Eyes on any PC that children will access. While ScrubIT and OpenDNS do a great job of blocking tons of stuff there are not a solution when kids are involved. You need something a lot more robust in that situation. At my home, I use both OpenDNS and Safe Eyes. That way I have two walls of defense. Safe Eyes is installed on all the PCs that my kids access. We also have OpenDNS running on the home network.
If your church provides free wi-fi access then I would recommend installing either ScrubIT or OpenDNS. For your office, I would recommend OpenDNS over ScrubIT just because it allows you a lot more control.
NOTE: These solutions are not the same thing as accountability software. They don’t replace it either. If you’re looking for personal accountability software, please check out CovenantEyes.