Every technology has both a positive and negative impact.
I’ve been writing a lot about Technopoly in the past few months. In the last few days, the social media behaviors of teens in the wake of the alleged rape of a 16-year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, have been exposed in the harsh light of the national media. It was brought to their attention by the hacker group Annonymous. The Twitter posts and YouTube videos shared by the teen boys who may have witnessed the alleged rape serve to illustrate the truth of social technology’s double-edged sword. In one sense, it’s existence surely exposed the alleged rape, and in the same case, equally exposed the dangers that come with unfiltered, 24/7 access to forms of media that encourage the marginalization and objectification of women.
I wrote a short piece, Combating The Objectification Of Women Begins At Home, about the incident on my Stop Child Slavery blog this morning. One of the factors to consider in looking at this case is how much of the bad goes unfiltered to our children, and how it may be impacting their ability to stand their ground in the face of moral challenges. It’s not the only factor, but in this specific case – the gross objectification of a teen age girl in the wake of an alleged rape – I believe it is a contributing factor.
Most of my friends have open wireless access to the Internet in their home, but they have no way of knowing what sites their children may be visiting while they are online. Of course, everyone will claim “tight monitoring,” but you can only watch so much when access is available on highly portable smart devices.The proliferation of devices like iPhones and iPads only makes access to literally anything easier than ever before. Even kids who aren’t actively looking can be lead to visit sites that could play a role in altering the moral compass parents try to instill in their children.
So, I thought I’d share how I do filtering in our home using OpenDNS.
For some time now on our home network, I’ve been blocking four distinct categories of sites defined by OpenDNS. Here’s what I block:
- Sites that provide information, images or implications of bondage, sadism, masochism, fetish, beating, body piercing or self-mutilation.
- Sites providing proxy bypass information or services. Also, sites that allow the user to surf the net anonymously, including sites that allow the user to send anonymous emails.
- Sites that contain information on such subjects as mutilation, torture, horror or the grotesque.
- And, anything relating to pornography, including mild depiction, soft pornography or hard-core pornography.
OpenDNS is easy to set up on your home network. Tthe OpenDNS Home VIP account costs $19.95 per year, but the free OpenDNS FamilyShield or OpenDNS Home accounts can accomplish the same mission. “When you set up OpenDNS Home on your router, every device in your home sharing your Internet connection gets protected. In addition to computers, this includes your kids’ Playstation, Wii, DS, Xbox, iPad, and even their iPhone.”
I chose a free option because I only needed to block one network, and I selected the OpenDNS Home account over the OpenDNS FamilyShield option so I could customize the settings a bit more and also see exactly what sites were being blocked. The OpenDNS Home account also allows me to unblock specific sites. I can also block usage of social media sites with the flick of a switch. I’ve not had to do this yet, but it’s nice to know that I can enforce a disciplinary action of “no social media” if I ever choose to do so.
Setup Is Easy.
While setup for the FamilyShield is a one click install, the setup for the more flexible home account is easy enough for anyone who can navigate a website and follow instructions to use. To setup my network filters, I clicked on “Settings” than added my network. This is the IP address of the router coming into our home. The site walks you through finding this number and downloading the Dynamic IP Updater client for Mac, Windows or Linux. From there, you choose the overall level of content filtering you desire, from none to high. The high setting blocks 26 of the almost 60 categories defined. You can customize any option by clicking on the “customize” link right next to each option.
I also went a step further and set up a custom message that displays on the screen when my kids are taken to a site that is blocked. It reads: “Site blocked. [DOMAIN] is not allowed on this network by the netowok administrator…. your Dad.” I wanted them to know that it was me, not the Internet, who had made the decision to block the site. The message I want them to get… I don’t approve. I want it heard loud and clear.
What may surprise you is what I’ve learned in the last few months. The top site, blocked 9 times is a pop up, ads.crakmedia.com. That’s not surprising. Here is what was for me. The site that is most often blocked by my filters is one of the most popular sites on the internet for teens… Tumblr. Here is a brief list of the url’s blocked in my house recently… tightwhiteshirt.tumblr.com, tittecity.tumblr.com, oopslip.tumblr.com, quality-porn.tumblr.com, sweet-sex-pics.tumblr.com, and the list goes on. Of the top 80 sites blocked, 37 were on the Tumblr domain. And tag searches aren’t blocked at all, unless I block Tumblr completely.
The Internet Is Powerful.
It can be used for good. It can be used for bad. I don’t want to leave the Internet’s influence to chance in my house. As a parent, I want to be able to control, to the greatest extent possible, how my children’s moral compass is calibrated. I can’t control what they do at another parent’s house, or on an open network at Starbucks, but I can control what happens where it matters most… my home. OpenDNS helps me do that.