Easy and FREE Family Internet Filter (for PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPad, and everything else)



You can install an internet filter on your family computer. But that’s not going to affect your kid’s iPod. Or your exchange student’s tablet. Or any other device that’s connecting through your router. It will only filter the one device it’s installed on.

Well, I just discovered that there’s a better way to help protect your family from the worst parts of the internet. It’s not too hard to set up. And it’s free.

It’s called OpenDNS.

OpenDNS Internet filter graphic, slides (4)


Let me explain, from one layman to another.

I usually imagine that the internet uses words to communicate. For example, my website goes by the name of www.jwashburn.com. But I only think this way because I’m a human.

My computer knows my website by a different name: One-seven-three Dot One-nine-four Dot Six-eight Dot One-twenty-one. (Kind of like how Bruce Wayne is known as Batman.)

So when I type www.jwashburn.com into Chrome, my computer sends that to a DNS (a domain name server), and the DNS says, “Oh, yeah, I know that site’s real name. One sec, and I’ll send you to the right place.”

So all communication from your browser to the rest of the internet gets filtered through a DNS. Your ISP (internet service provider) probably has you using some default DNS of their own. Google also happens to have a DNS that they invite people to use (for faster lookups, they say).

Well, OpenDNS is another option.

And it has one particularly great perk: If you send a request for a site that’s on their bad list, they won’t send you to that page. Instead you’ll get another page that says, “Hey, we’re OpenDNS, and that site has been blocked for such and such a reason.”

What’s more, you only have to set it up once, and it will affect every device connected to your router. That means it will filter your iPad, your iPhone, your Android phone, and everything else. (That is, as long as they’re connecting through your WiFi rather than a cellular plan. Speaking of which, you should get your family on Republic Wireless for $10/month.)

I noticed, too, that OpenDNS is used by many businesses and schools, which I somehow found reassuring.

OpenDNS Internet filter graphic, slides (5)


I’m not going to give you a complete walk-through (since it’s slightly different for each router). But I’ll get you started.

Go to their website and click on the yellow WEB FILTERING and then on HOME. From there I went to OpenDNS Family Shield because it said it was pre-configured. (To be honest, the other free option, OpenDNS Home, seemed to be the exact same service. I can’t tell the difference. Anyone know?)

As you proceed, make sure you choose the option to put it on your ROUTER and not just on a single computer. (By the way, if you don’t know, your router is the box that blinks when the internet is working.)

From here, it gets tricky, because every router will have a different setup. Choose your router from the list (or choose one that’s similar, which is what I had to do since mine wasn’t on the list). Then follow those steps to “set your static DNS to” (That means whenever you want to go somewhere on the internet, your router will ask OpenDNS for directions.)

That’s it!

Pro tip: I’m embarrassed to even mention it, but you might want to use Internet Explorer for this setup, instead of Chrome. Old routers are more likely to get along with IE.

Screenshot 2014-01-30 at 4.45.52 PM


OpenDNS is free.

It’s pretty easy to set up.

And it filters all the devices in your house.

Go here to get started: http://www.opendns.com/


UPDATE: I haven’t experienced any problems, but some users said it slowed down YouTube and Netflix (though this may have been fixed). If you do make the switch to OpenDNS, watch these sites in particular for playback issues.

Also, I guess I should’ve mentioned that the best solution is to teach correct principles and let the children govern themselves. After all, no filter is perfect. OpenDNS is a nice safety net, but it isn’t guaranteed to block everything that’s inappropriate.



Some of you may have noticed that I’m in over my head, as far as the technical side of all this goes. If you have anything to add about that (or anything else), please drop a comment below.


This site has a toolbox of 120 tools and tricks for the concerned parent to keep their children safe online. Might be worth looking into as well . . .

  1. OpenDNS is a great service, and we use it at my home. Users just need to be aware that it has limitations. Among them is that it only blocks sites, it doesn’t block specific content on sites. So it won’t keep foul pictures from showing up in a Google image search, for example, and if a normally safe site (let’s say Facebook) has undesirable content, it won’t block that either. On the other hand, if you want to be especially restrictive, OpenDNS has all sorts of controls — you could block Facebook entirely, for example, or you could block gambling sites or even religious sites.

  2. OpenDNS can indeed block websites that have been classified as not being suitable to visit (based on different catagories). It’s not teenager-proof though but nevertheless a good start.

    But I have to add one important point: OpenDNS while free will record every single website you visit. It’s like some kind of malware on your computer recording every address you type into your browser.

    So before anybody goes for OpenDNS he or she should seriously consider the implications of giving away your privacy.

  3. The one hesitation I’be about this in the past is what stops opendns from routing my-bank.com to something that looks like my bank, maybe even a proxy server routing to my bank, but sniffing allthe traffic passing through it?

    I threw that concern to the wind about 2 years ago and have used opendns only one complaint from my wife she can’t access some of the stock photography sites she used to use. I suppose I should get the details from her and white list that site.

    1. I think technically there’s nothing stopping them from doing that. But then, what’s stopping your ISP from doing it? You have to use DNS and I think OpenDNS wants to be respected and liked, so they’re not going to do something like that. They’ve been around a while and are respected and liked, because they don’t do that sort of thing.

  4. I have a fair amount of experience with OpenDNS so I’ll post my findings. First, the difference between family shield and OpenDNS is that Family Shield it’s just a pre-set list of bad sites blocked and quicker to setup. OpenDNS home though has a webpage where you can login and set categories to block, and white lists and blacklists.

    OpenDNS (and Family Shield, which will apply to the rest of the conversation) is mostly useful if you not only add it to your router like you mentioned, but if you also have a fancy enough router that can block all dns traffic except for your approved OpenDNS DNS. Otherwise even if the router is pushing out DNS settings any user can change their DNS on their computer or device and bypass the whole system. So yeah like someone mentioned not very teenager proof unless you do that. The schools I do work at that use OpenDNS have a DNS filter like I mentioned or else it would be no good once word got out.

    Speed is definitely a concern and for this reason alone I have pretty much stopped using it in my house except for on one kid computer that they are too young to know how to change it. I have notice Netflix, Youtube, large downloads, etc, etc lagging compared to my normal full comcast speed. From how I understand it you should usually use your ISP’s DNS servers because they route you to your closest CDN (content delivery network) and with OpenDNS they do not/cannot? do that

  5. My husband uses http://www1.k9webprotection.com/, it’s the web filter they use for the State of Delaware internet access. He has it installed on his phone and computer, and we have never had any problems with it not being strong enough or restricting the wrong things. He used to complain that it slowed his phone down, but once he set it up so the caches would clear properly he had no more issues. I highly recommend it.

  6. I’m glad you covered this, I’m the “Internet specialist” for our ward and have been setting people up on opendns for a couple years. It works great!

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