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Further Reading

DEPARTMENT: Homefront

Porn Blockers

A Primer for Parents

by Marcia Segelstein

According to a poll released by Common Sense Media, the vast majority of parents believe that, among all forms of media, the internet poses the greatest risk to their children, especially because of pornography. Thankfully, there are now simple and no-cost ways to protect them.

Article originally appeared in
Salvo 28

Enough Is Enough (EIE) is a non-profit organization dedicated to making the internet safer for children and families. Its website, www.enough.org, is replete with resources, information, and some sobering statistics. According to a 2005 study published in the journal Pediatrics, 42 percent of surveyed internet users aged 10 to 17 said they'd seen online pornography in a recent 12-month span. Of those, 66 percent said they did not want to view the images and had not sought them out.

James Dirksen has been on EIE's Internet Safety Council for six years. He also founded and ran RuleSpace, a company that built pornography-filtering technology, which was acquired in 2010 by Symantec, the world's largest internet security firm. Beyond his 14 years of experience working in the field of internet filtering, Dirksen is a father of six with a personal interest in the topic. We asked for his expert advice on how to protect children from internet pornography.

According to Dirksen, it's a matter of layers.

✓ Communication

The first layer is communication between parents and kids. Parents must let their children know that there are dangerous and inappropriate things on the internet, and warn them to be careful when using it.

✓ Rules

Next is rules. Parents should have rules in place for their children in general. And when it comes to technology, one important rule should be that kids tell their parents if they come across something online that's inappropriate, that makes them feel uncomfortable, or that they just don't like.

✓ DNS Technology

The correct layers of technology come next, and DNS-based filtering is the first line of defense. DNS (Domain Name System) filtering blocks inappropriate single-topic sites. That means that websites specifically dedicated to pornography, for example, will be inaccessible. That adds up to between 80 and 90 percent of all inappropriate content, according to Dirksen. DNS filtering offers a huge amount of protection with very little work and no cost. Dirksen believes that every home with children should have it.

There are two primary DNS filtering systems, both of which are free: OpenDNS, available at opendns.com; and ConnectSafe, available at dns.norton.com.

DNS filtering is installed and configured on the home router. It protects every device connected to the internet through the home's DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem.

But what happens when a child connects to the internet from somewhere other than home?

✓ Device Filters

To close this gap of vulnerability, it's necessary to install filtering software on individual devices (like laptops) that are going to be used outside the home. A free option that, according to Dirksen, installs easily and works well is available at HERE.

When it comes to smartphones, it's probably unbeknownst to most people, but almost all North American mobile carriers offer free filtering.

Verizon's free service is available HERE.

T-Mobile's free service is available HERE.

Sprint users can sign into their account, click the "My Preferences" tab, scroll down to the "Limits and Permission" section, and click on "Content Filter." Only the authorized account holder (usually the parent) can change the setting for all phones on the account.

Symantec offers free filtering for IOS and Android devices HERE.

While Dirksen acknowledges that no system is perfect (hence the need for communication and rules), filtering technology is better than it's ever been.


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