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How to Block Internet Porn

by on June 06, 2011
in Computers and Software, Internet & Networking, Computer Safety & Support, Family and Parenting, Kids, Tips & How-Tos :: 18 comments

Girl at computerFor decades, porn has been a big driver of technological adoption. It helped usher in the era of VCRs, pay-per-view movies, and even the Internet itself. And now you can even access pornography through your smartphone or gaming system. While I believe adults can make their own choices about what they choose to watch, that’s not a decision I leave up to my children.

Yet blocking porn on all the myriad devices my kids have access to is no easy task. But there are tools I can use to at least make it less likely they will accidentally stumble onto inappropriate content, and let me monitor what sites they are going to and what they are searching for – and let’s face it, knowing your mother is watching you is probably a big deterrent for any child.

So, here is my advice for how to protect your kids. Some of these solutions will be more successful than others. Technically adept kids (are there any other kind?) will easily find workarounds to whatever barriers I put in place. At the end of the day, keeping an eye on your children and having open conversations about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate in your family still goes a long way – actual parenting hasn’t gone out of style.

Cell phones

Cell phones are becoming more common among kids, and at much younger ages. And the newest cell phones, including most smartphones, provide web browsing similar to that of a home computer. Cell phones usage is also very difficult for parents to monitor because they are commonly used outside the home.

So you would think that cell phones would have great parental control options. They don’t.

You best bet is to buy your child a phone without web browsing ability or turn off the phone’s data access through your carrier (which may also limit your child’s ability to send and receive email).

Each of the major carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon – offer free content filtering features, but with major limitations. Most do not work over Wi-Fi, on smartphones or with prepaid plans.

If your child has a smartphone, blocking access to sites is even trickier. I tried a number of parental control apps for Android, and none was able to do an adequate job. In every case the app could easily be defeated by anyone with a basic knowledge of the Android operating system.

I was more successful with the iPhone, but multiple steps are required. First, you need to install the K9 Browser (free in iTunes), which provides active screening of both mature websites and search terms. The K9 Browser is free, but $2.99 if you want the ad-free version. Then you need to turn off the Safari browser and prevent installing a new browser app in the “Restrictions” menu under “General” in the iPhone Settings. Your child will lose the ability to install any new apps, but they will have a safe Internet experience.

Computers

Macs have built-in parental controls that allow you to filter out mature content or even block access to all web sites except those that you put on an approved list. The controls can be accessed from the Mac’s Settings menu.

Windows PCs don’t have built-in web filtering, but you can download Microsoft’s free Windows Live Family Safety 2011 for both web filtering and monitoring.

If you’re looking for detailed control over what types of sites your children can see as well as robust monitoring, Net Nanny ($39.99 for Mac and Windows) is a good choice. Norton Online Family offers many similar features in both a free version, with fewer reporting features, and a $29.99 premium option.

Keep in mind that all of these porn prevention solutions can be gotten around by more technically savvy kids. Torrent sites, secure proxies and other tools can be used to access porn, even with parental control software. So look for these types of sites in the reports you get from your parental monitoring solution and, if possible, require all computer use to be done in a public area of the house.

Game Systems

Now that games systems come with integrated browsers, porn is just a few controller clicks away for your child. Fortunately, both the Sony PS3 and the Wii allow you to simply turn off the browser, which isn’t really very useful on game platforms, anyhow. The PS3 also offers an optional subscription to Trend Micro’s content blocking service, though at $19.99 per year, turning off the browser is the more cost-effective option.

The Xbox 360 has no browser, so there’s no need for concern.

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Discussion loading

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Thank you for this informative

From richard on June 06, 2011 :: 7:21 pm

Thank you for this informative posting. I myself have been looking into this issue for some time.

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iPhone Internet access still too easy!

From Myles Christensen on June 07, 2011 :: 9:20 am

An excellent article on an extremely important subject!

Unfortunately there are dozens (probably hundreds) of innocent-looking apps that have full Internet access.  A parent probably wouldn’t think twice about letting a child install Touch Hockey, AOL Radio, or PBS apps.  But these are just a few examples of apps that can access ANY page on the Internet.  Even worse is the fact that Apple has rated these apps as appropriate for 4 year-olds.

If you want to help make a change, join the Facebook Page - “Protect Kids From the App Store”.

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OpenDNS

From Tim on August 19, 2011 :: 1:58 pm

I use OpenDNS (opendns.org). Their service provides quicker lookups than most ISPs - and comes with a simple control panel that allows you to block access to most categories of sites you wouldn’t want your kids to see. You can also block/allow sites on an individual basis. It’s very easy to setup and free for home use.

Of course once your kids are savvy enough to configure a different DNS server, you’re stuck…

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aside from wifi ...?

From (Bro)ccoli on December 11, 2011 :: 8:09 pm

Hey Tim, that was a FANTASTIC solution to a difficult problem (porn). However, if I turn off the wifi on my phone to use the 3g, how do I then filter that?

(Bro)ccoli

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Umbrella VPN

From Steven Hepting on November 18, 2012 :: 11:41 pm

You can use their new Umbrella VPN service (just released Nov 12, 2012). It routes all traffic from the phone through their very fast servers.

It’s $20/year and you can set up all sort of blocking options by category (gambling, porn, lingerie, etc) in addition to a black/white list of your own.

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How to force Umbrella?

From Doug on December 10, 2012 :: 2:05 pm

Steven, I signed up for Umbrella for ipad to protect my kids. It works wonderfully and is fully customizeable. BUT - They can easily turn off VPN in the ipad settings and then they are once again unfiltered. Is there anyway to block kids from turning off VPN and diabling Umbrella?

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Print Version?

From Sue on October 07, 2011 :: 12:46 pm

I absolutely love all of the informative information you send on to all your email subcribers. I print them off and reference them as I have time. Because of that, I wonder if you could do a “Print Version” button for your articles so that it prints only the showcased article and not all of the discussions at the end. Is that possible? Thanks so much!

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blocking on android phone

From AndroidTowne on January 05, 2012 :: 10:50 pm

So you can do it on Android, but it’s a little complicated. You need both Android Parental Control App and SafeBrowser App. Set the parental control app to restrict the internet (the one that comes with the phone), market app and settings (so you can’t force stop parental controls or safe browser). Set safebrowser as your default browser (it’s an option when you use it). Also, through admin in safebrowser you can set the browser to block up to 8 categories - porn, gaming, etc and you can also blacklist or whitelist specific sites. I recommend blacklisting the android market website since you can just get a different browser to use. parental control also has a sand box mode which is great if you want to let a little one play angry birds, but don’t want them to erase you phone or what not.

I know it sounds a little complicated, but it actually works and is a smooth operation once it’s set up. This is the only solution we have found that actually works if you have a problem with this sort of thing or maybe a teen…there is no way to do this on the iphone because iphone lets each app connect online on it’s own, so you can bypass any anti-porn/security set up.

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how to NOT allow an Uninstall of Android Parental Control

From Micah on January 26, 2012 :: 1:28 am

How do you not allow your kid to just uninstall the parental control app?

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You cannot do that ,

From Binarybot on December 25, 2013 :: 9:44 pm

You cannot do that , even if you do anything and child want’s to break it , he will simply root the phone. At most you can understand what he/she is doing and scold him/her for it , but it wont give you the results that you want. Read my large comment ( of course , if webmaster allows it ) and you will understand that anyone with basic knowlege can break through it

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block all porn site access

From sarah weldon on August 12, 2013 :: 9:56 pm

Please block all website access. Thank you.

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I don't won't any porn

From brianmoree on March 11, 2012 :: 7:47 am

I don’t won’t any porn to get on my phone so kids can see

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Blocking Porn on the iPad

From marty9999 on March 16, 2012 :: 6:54 pm

Check out McGruff SafeGuard Child Safe Browser (in the App Store). 

Details at GoMcGruff.com/browser and GoMcGruff.com/BrowserVideo

You might remember McGruff - The Crime Dog - Take A Bite Out Of Crime - from your childhood.

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youtube

From mike on April 10, 2012 :: 9:53 am

Schools are using YouTube so you can’t block it, but the absolute filth on that site is sometimes worse than seeing porn.

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besecure iphone filter is free and works great!

From Lea on May 14, 2012 :: 1:55 pm

Besecure offers an in home filtering system that allows parental controls on the different account profiles and on nearly every wifi device in the house. We have had it for years and I had no idea until just a few hours ago when I called that it will work for iphone! And that app is free! Parents install the app and pw protect it so it cannot be deleted. Then you can block pornographic content! Too cool! If you have the home filtering system you can actually see what sites are being visited. I love my filter. In a world where pornography is only a click away it helps to keep everyone in our family accountable and thoughtful about what we are setting before our eyes.

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OpenDNS

From Paul B. on June 09, 2012 :: 8:16 am

OpenDNS is a great solution, but not bulletproof. It will block categories and sites, but not content that comes in via unblocked sites, including in advertising.

You can implement it at the router level, and everything that uses the router will be covered. Make sure you have a good administrative password on the router.

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I have found the verizon content filter works for the browser...but not apps

From Jennifer on November 12, 2012 :: 5:14 pm

The verizon content filter catches things very well on the browser! However, if they have downloaded an app….it’s a whole different game!  It can be an app that you would think should be fine, however just go to pinterest and select the photography category.  NOT GOOD! Through their app.  Nothing shows up on the browser because we have the content filter.  But on the same phone accessing it through the app, we got quite an eye full of “artisitc” porn.  Sorry porn is porn when children have access to it there is nothing artistic about it.  I am very frustrated that there is not an app that I can find to filter the content within apps!

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My favorite Porn Filter

From Zack Carr on March 21, 2013 :: 3:59 pm

ok so my kids are just getting to the age when this is an issue.  We have had “the talk” and everything else. But I also decided to buy a porn filter.

I bought Net Nanny (http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-4876100-10359668) I like it so far but I wanted to know if this is the best or not.  I would love your feedback.

Thanks

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