I have a teen that refuses to do homework. You know, gets a “zero”. Thus, I take the phone away. However, teen needs a computer for homework. Fine. But you know when she gets on to the computer, she’s going to go to all those sites where “screenagers” waste their time. That’s fine. I’m going to show you how to block individual sites using OpenDNS and your Router. [Note that I’m going to use terminology for my Netgear, but chances are if you’re bothered to read this, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Also, while my Netgear router has a “Blocked Sites” function, it doesn’t work. Useless!]
DNS can be set in many places: local computer, router, modem. I’m not quite sure what trumps what, but I believe that’s the line. Using your router for DNS is better than using your modems – my AT&T modem does not allow it to change! Setting on an device level, well, that’s a lot of work. Also, I have to believe that most “screenagers” don’t know what DNS even is. So, here we go.
The first step is to open your router’s settings and go to Internet Settings (also called WAN). Set the Primary and Secondary numbers to OpenDNS, 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52. Now, all requests originating form your router will go through OpenDNS. I’m sure there is some chatter on whether using Cisco-owned product is all that good, but from what I’ve read, it’s one of the better choices out there for the home user. What you may give up in privacy, you’ll gain in secure web browsing.
The second step is to let OpenDNS know that request from your router are yours. Okay, that may sound all scary and Big Brother, but let’s not pretend that our web surfing is anonymous. It’s not. You buy your internet from someone, or are you really getting it for free from a leaky neighbor or a nearby Starbucks?
To sign up for an OpenDNS account, go to their website and sign up for a free Home account. All it requires is an email address. Once completed, open their Dashboard from a computer on your home network. Under settings, add your local network: it’s going to be the IP address of your modem. Give it name, and save it. OpenDNS will now associate requests from that IP as yours. Under Web Content Filtering, you’ll see two areas. The top is a predefined set for a variety of “undesirable” sites – if I had teenage boys, I’d sure as hell use this to block the “naughty bits”. The bottom section allows individual site blockage. Here’s what I wanted:
Give it about five-ten minutes (they say three) and those sites are as good as gone! While a web browser may give a different warning (usually a cert error), dig one deeper with nslookup, you’ll see what’s going on:
Couple of points: First, you’ll probably need to run Cisco’s OpenDNS-Updater program as your ISP provides your modem with a dynamic host; exact same thing as if you were running a DynamicDNS service like DuckDNS. Second, a really smart kid could probably figure out how those sites are being blocked. My kid is smart, but if she was really that smart, she’d just do her homework in the first place.