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How to keep your kids safe online and block websites

We'll show you how to make sure your children stay safe online and also how to block websites

The internet is stuffed full of great resources and activities for kids, but there’s a danger they’ll find and do things which aren’t so wholesome. We continue our feature below, showing you how to keep your children safe online.

Enabling parental controls in popular browsers and other applications

Some web browsers, media players and other programs also have built-in age or content restrictions:

Internet Explorer 9: Uses Windows 7 and Vista’s built-in parental controls and also provides content filtering. Click the cog icon at the top-right corner, then Internet Options. Now click on the Content tab, and then Enable… in the Content Advisor section. For each type of content in the list, you can select how severe the restriction is, and you can set a password for turning filtering on and off.

IE9 parental controls

Google Chrome: Chrome, disappointingly, has no parental controls, but if Google is the default search engine, you can enable SafeSearch if you’re signed in to your Google account. Go to www.google.co.uk and click the cog icon to the right of the screen. Click Search settings and you’ll see a slider which you can adjust and then click the ‘Lock SafeSearch’ link.

Mozilla Firefox: Like Chrome, Firefox doesn’t have parental controls, but you can install the FoxFilter add-on from tinyurl.com/6s7977g. This does a similar job to the content filter in Internet Explorer.

YouTube: YouTube has a safety mode, although it's pretty hidden. To enable it, scroll to the very bottom of a YouTube page and you'll find a Safety: Off message. Click the arrow to the right, check the On radio button, and click Save.

iTunes: You can restrict content that can be downloaded from the iTunes store by age rating. To access the parental settings in iTunes 10, go to Edit, Preferences.. then click on the Parental tab. There you can disable access to podcasts, radio and the iTunes store entirely or restrict films, TV shows and music.

iTunes parental controls

Bear in mind that no content filter is perfect, and there are no guarantees that objectionable content will be blocked 100% of the time. This is why it's a good idea to keep computers in communal areas and keep a physical eye on what your children are up to.

Filter websites using OpenDNS - for free

A great way to enable website filtering for all devices connecting to the internet through your broadband router is to use OpenDNS.

Instead of using the DNS servers provided by your ISP (the servers which convert a website's friendly name such as google.co.uk into the internet address 74.125.224.72), you use OpenDNS's servers.

OpenDNS

Essentially, you need simply make one small change to your router's settings and any device connecting to the internet via your home network will be routed through OpenDNS's system, which filters websites. There's no charge for the service, and it's configurable for low- or high-level blocking as well as more fine-grained control over which categories of site to block, including any phishing sites.

To use OpenDNS, you need to sign up for a free account here. Clearly, any settings you make will apply to everyone in the house, so you can't block some sites for your kids, yet access them yourself through the same router.

Next page: Parental controls for smartphones and tablets

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