Child Protection on the Internet: How Parents Can Protect Their Children From the Dark Side of the Force

Children and adolescents are particularly at risk on the Internet because it is difficult to control what content they retrieve there. Although there are child protection rules in the US like COPPA – but those really wants to protect his children safely must act beyond government regulation. What options we have as parents to enable child protection from the dark side of the Internet and not age-appropriate content will be discussed in in this overview.

Child protection on the Internet includes two fundamental aspects: how long can minors be allowed into the internet, which pages should they access? Sex sites, gambling, expensive subscriptions – children can quickly lose their way to online offers that are not intended and suitable for them. Browsing the Internet without supervision is not a viable option until a certain age. To set up a child protection system, you have the following options:

1: Child Protection on the Internet via a router

Internet routers offer the possibility of providing online-enabled devices in the home network with so-called blacklists: The Internet addresses (URLs) included in such lists can no longer be called up by these devices. Some router models work alongside self-created blacklists with the youth protection list of the for youth-endangering media. These records have 2,000 to 3,000 URLs, however, let’s be clear – there are significantly more websites that are unsuitable for children. In addition, the exact lists are not always made public. And there are so many sites we don’t consider that often show harmful content for children and minors (glorification of violence, etc.)

The advantage of the Child Protection on the Internet via the router is that it is applicable to every Internet device in the home network and requires no further software installation. The blacklist itself is extensible, but only manually: websites that parents want to declare restricted for their children must be entered manually. The maintenance effort is therefore high. In addition, the device is not without technical hurdles – only users who can configure an Internet router should dare to provide the router with child protection for the Internet. And the level of protection is rather low despite the considerable effort involved. The protection by the router is annulled at the moment in which a device from the outside home joins the network. Bringing in a friend of the family with his tablet and logs in with a guest account and joins with unprotected guest account access on home Wi-Fi and the guys can bring up any page on the tablet that comes to their mind.

2: Child Protection on the Internet via software

A second way to protect children on the Internet is special software. Such a filter program such as  “Net Nanny”, “Parental Control 2017” or the parental control software of the telecom is installed on the respective device of the child – and limits the access even for this device.

The advantage of the programs is that they use provider-maintained revocation lists, broken down into categories such as sex and violence, that are more extensive than the router list. If required, these blacklists can also be expanded individually.

However, the drawbacks are also outweighed here: Many of the programs were developed for a specific operating system like Windows and do not run on Apple devices (or vice versa). In addition, such protection of children by software on various Internet devices such as smart TVs and game consoles does not work at all. And the software usually does not synchronize with other devices. The time or access restrictions set for the PC do not apply to tablets or cell phones. This can be very costly – namely, software costs plus licensing costs for each device.

3: Child Protection on the Internet via OpenDNS

OpenDNS can be used to block entire Internet domains and block them for curious children’s eyes.

Domain name service servers (DNS servers) translate Internet addresses into the IP address behind them. The user enters a domain or URL in the browser, which he wants to visit. The browser sends a request to the DNS server at the ISP, which in turn responds with an IP address. The whole thing works in a similar way to telephone information but for the internet.

To provide for child protection via OpenDNS, two options are possible:

  1. The router must be reconfigured – with the IP address of the OpenDNS server as the central DNS. This requires a degree of technical knowledge or a router that inherently supports OpenDNS.
  2. For each device to be protected, the IP address of the OpenDNS server is manually configured – a technically very demanding and extremely time-consuming task depending on the operating system of the device.

Afterwards, all devices connected to the home network are routed to the OpenDNS server instead of the default DNS server. OpenDNS then locks specific domains and displays only error messages instead of blocked websites. However, the procedure only works if the router or Internet service provider also allows this.

Other disadvantages of the protection of minors on the Internet via OpenDNS:

If all devices in the home network are protected by router configuration, all family members are affected. This also means that dad cannot surf on any of the adult pages he wishes too.

If each household device is configured individually, new devices are not protected and must be independently protected. Bring so the friend of the family with their tablet can be used to visit all websites – even those that were previously blocked with difficulty through OpenDNS.

And finally, OpenDNS is a cloud service, where all requests come through. This makes it easy to create a user profile across all domains visited by the household, but it’s not so good with providing privacy protection!

4: Child Protection on the Internet on the Internet via individual devices, browsers, etc.

Various devices, Internet browsers, and operating systems have their own parental controls, which, however, only apply to the device – whether Smart TV, game console, Windows operating system or Chrome browser. These functions must all be configured individually. Synchronization does not take place; the devices do not recognize each other. Thus, cross-device time quotas cannot be assigned. If the protection functions are activated in the browser, all entered URLs often go directly to the browser manufacturer, who can create a personality profile of the user from the data.

5: Child Protection on the Internet via a central device

The practical eBlocker Family not only offers parental controls but also preserves privacy: With freely selectable, cross-device time quotas can prevent excessive surfing – the little ones cannot even just switch from smart TV to the game console and continue surfing there easily. Which pages are blocked, parents decide based on ready-made categories, which can be supplemented individually. Daily updates ensure the new topics and issues are address immediately.

The eBlocker is also a local solution and not a cloud service, so no data leaves the house. So not only the offspring but the privacy of the whole family is protected. The eBlocker works very easyly: Simply plug & play into the home network, it protects after only a few clicks on all devices and a few minutes the entire family is covered! This makes the little box currently one of the best and most versatile solutions in terms of secure Internet and child protection.

Important note
Please note that this article was originally published by the former eBlocker GmbH. The contents may be outdated. Today, eBlocker is free of charge and available as Open Source. Check out the new eBlocker Open Source Project.

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