3 minute read

Porn Blockers, OpenDNS, and Accountability

Last Updated: May 17, 2021

Brian Gardner

Brian Gardner leads the Sexual Integrity ministry at Xenos Christian Fellowship. By day, he works as a software developer; the rest of the time he leads a college home group, teaches classes on pornography addiction for men, does pastoral counseling, and tries to find time once in a while to play some golf. Brian has been married for almost 35 years and is the proud father of two grown kids (and grandfather to one grandson). He blogs at “Bought With a Price."

Are porn blockers a good solution for men who are struggling with the temptation to look at pornography? There are lots of products out there like Cybersitter, Net-Nanny, and OpenDNS. Will they help you stay away from porn?

As some people know, I’m not a fan of porn blockers (alone) for adults. A porn blocker is like a game to someone who is determined to find pornography. People will spend hours trying to get around them, since they are basically “blacklists.” If you can find a site that is not in the list, then you’ve “scored.” In many ways, this is like gambling: you try to hit, and try to hit, and sometimes, you succeed. When you do succeed in bypassing it, there is a rush similar to hitting that one number on a roulette wheel. I can’t get behind reinforcing a gambling addiction along with an addiction to pornography.

Another thing that is not good about porn blockers: when used alone, and not in concert with accountability software, no one knows that you just spent an hour trying to find pornography. You’ve maintained your anonymity, even if you never succeeded in going to a single pornographic site. Even if you use a blocker, you should have accountability software and a good accountability partner so that there can be openness about all of your Internet activity.

At the Xenos Summer Institute last month, in my talk on battling pornography in your church, I was discussing accountability software and porn blockers, and someone mentioned OpenDNS as a great solution. I had heard about this before and decided to investigate.

OpenDNS is freely available at OpenDNS.com and has several benefits, such as web content filtering, anti-phishing, and better and faster DNS service than most Internet Service Providers. I decided to see how it works by signing up for it. You sign up, configure your Internet DNS (Domain Name System) settings to use their DNS servers, and you’re done. It takes just a few minutes.

Once I had signed up, I configured the settings I wanted and did an experiment. Could I get to images of naked women? I went to Google, typed in a search term, and there were the links (for those of you who think this is a dangerous experiment, you’re right, but my wife was there, and I was ready to hit Command-W if I actually saw anything). Every attempt to get to a “real” nudity or porn site was blocked with a message. Good – nothing like a tiny slap upside the head to remind you.

However, OpenDNS is domain-based. For those of you who are not Internet-savvy, that means that domains like something.com or thisandthat.com or whatwereyouthinking.com are blocked. If you go to a site that normally hosts innocent content, but also has nudity, you can see anything on the site. This includes sites that host photography like flickr. That’s not good; along with people’s vacation pictures, there’s plenty of suggestive stuff there for the determined. No matter how high you set the level of security, if the domain is not known for adult content, you can see anything on it. Contrarily, if a domain is known to host adult content, you can’t get to innocent pages on it, which could be a downside for some.

This, plus the lack of accountability for your actions on the Internet, convinced me that OpenDNS is not a sufficient solution. It will keep you away from the most egregious content, to be sure, and it’s very good for that, but it won’t keep you away from sexually oriented material on the Internet, even at the highest filtering level.

Having said that, I still use it. For one thing, their DNS servers are much faster at finding web pages than my ISP; for another, it keeps me from landing blindly on a page I did not really know and don’t want to be sucker-punched by. If you have children, something like this is essential to prevent their inadvertent exposure to pornography.

The bottom line is: anyone who is serious about growth in this area should have accountability software installed like Covenant Eyes, and also have the choice to have content filtering.

  • Comments on: Porn Blockers, OpenDNS, and Accountability
    1. Anonymous on

      Wow, thank you so much for writing this! Your explanation of how the porn blockers alone are just like gambling is one reason I was SO addicted in college, a christian college. It makes so much sense that it combines the two & creates a sucker punch of deadly addiction. I have a young son & this article helped me think of another way to protect him as he grows. I think it will also help the people I am trying to help in my church where I am the worship pastor. Thank you for sharing this, and please share more in the future!

      Reply
    2. charles on

      Hello! I’m a pono addict who is looking to get help! Do you offer any counseling/support groups that I can tap into or know where I can find one?
      In His Grip,
      Charles

      Reply
    3. MMM on

      Sounds great, however, I deal with news,politics, and the war on terror. Will this block these sites as well?

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        @MMM – Accountability software doesn’t block anything. As for Covenant Eyes filtering software, a “Filter Guardian” can whitelist or blacklist anything they like, based on their own preferences, what they want to be viewed in their home or office. As for Open DNS, I don’t know how their settings work. You’d have to contact them about that.

    4. David Elmore on

      I manage networks for both a church and a non-profit agency including a emergency foster home. We use OpenDNS for our web content filtering. I wanted to address the domain based filtering in OpenDNS. In OpenDNS you must select the level of filtering you want. Their is also a custom option which allows you to block different categories – photo sharing included. This would address the “flickr” problem as would setting the protection category on high. OpenDNS is highly customizeable and rather than being a drain on computer resources, it is at worst neutral.

      Reply
    5. Sarah on

      I use accountability software + OpenDNS for our family. The other thing I do, is I blacklist all search engines except for Bing and Google, and I use DNSMasq (I flashed Tomato firmware on my router) to ensure that Safe Search for both Bing and Google are enforced… even in incognito or private browsing!

      I also have UltraVNC on our laptops, and I tell my kids that at any time I can see their screen in real time. I also make sure that we all use Android phones, because iPhones block Accountability Software from properly function (ie, you can’t see the searches within Instagram on an iPhone, but you can on Android). Airdroid is an interesting app on rooted Androids as well. It allows you to see the Android screen in real time, similar to vnc. My kids are still young (oldest is 9), but I want to keep a tight grip on where they’re going on the internet.

      Reply
    6. Heidi on

      Covenant Eyes is a great tool for adult accountability, but it 100% fails as a porn blocker for children due to its unreliability. It ought never be presented or used as a family filter, and attempting to use it as such carries lifelong destruction for the children who depend on it to protect their innocence. I speak from experience. Of course, Covenant Eyes reports will notify you after the fact of your child’s exposure to hard-core pornography… again, a good tool for adults, but devastating for children.

      Reply
      • Moriah Bowman on

        Hi Heidi!

        I am sorry to hear that you have been disappointed by our accountability, specifically when it comes to kids. Did you know that we also have a filter tool that allows you to actually block content you don’t want your children to see? You can use it with our accountability. My family has used both for years, and it provides that extra layer of protection for the kids.

        Let me know what you think!
        Moriah

    7. Thomas Fontana on

      One really big benefit of opendns is its ability to filter content on any device. Especially important now a days when internet can be accessed from many devices that most client porn blockers don’t support. Particularly gaming consoles, smart tvs and amazon devices. It does create a log of accessed domains that can be viewed from opendns dashboard online. Its not full proof though. Accountability software like ce and open hearted scripture reading and prayer in combination with opendns is the best I’ve come up with. Ce needs to make an app for chromebooks. Ce will help prevent someone from disabling open dns because of accountability.

      Reply
    8. Davida Scott on

      I have only recently heard of Covenant Eyes and Open DNS we have been struggling against and defeated by pornography being assessed by our teenage son for the past 3 years. He finds ways around it due to us being naïve about “guest tabs and incognito” his Catholic HS recently shared Covenant Eyes. I need to understand how it works. I understand the basics screen saving and monitoring for accountability “I know you were on this site” blocking specific websites. Here are my questions. I see accountability is based on email address.

      My son created another email account signed in and by passed my restrictions. Can this happen with Covenant Eyes on his laptop or cell phone? He creates a new email or uses the guest tab.

      As far as YouTube he needs you tube for school assignments. A teacher may assign certain videos to watch. Yet he has gone into YouTube and found hard core porn and inappropriate stuff including music videos.

      I need to block the ability to set up accounts to by pass restrictions.

      Reply
      • Moriah Bowman on

        Hi David,

        Great questions. If you have Covenant Eyes software installed on your son’s computer and phone, he cannot just “sign out” and bypass accountability. You will be notified if he does sign out, and that would then clue you into the fact that he probably signed out to look up porn. He cannot just sign in to another CE account with a different email address. Using a guest tab in a browser will still fall under our software’s monitoring capabilities.

        If you would like more in-depth information about our software and how it can work for our family, you should check out our support article home page. From what it sounds like, your son would benefit from having Covenant Eyes on his devices. And, if he is using YouTube to watching explicit videos, our software will capture that.

        I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. And as always, our Member Care Team is happy to assist you, if needed.
        Blessings,
        Moriah

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