When you do a Google search for "porn," you’ll find more than 2 billion (that's billion with a "B") results, and many of those links lead to extremely graphic images, videos and more. The internet has made researching almost any topic easier than ever, and pornography has flourished. Not everyone is comfortable with porn, and if you feel the need to block access to these sites on the various internet-connected devices in your home, you're going to have to take several steps.
Start With the Search Engines
Whether you prefer Google, Bing or Yahoo, each search engine has its own way of implementing "safe search." While it isn't a perfect solution (if you know a site name, you can simply go there without searching for anything), it is a good place to start, especially if your aim is to keep unintended images from popping up with an innocuous search. For example, without a safe search on, your search for "water sports" may bring up some surprising results.
- Open a browser window and navigate to http://www.google.com
- Click on settings and choose "Search settings"
- Click on the box that reads "Turn on SafeSearch"
- To ensure SafeSearch stays on, you need to make sure you're allowing cookies
- You can check the box to Lock SafeSearch, which keeps it running whether you're logged into your Google account or not
A slightly tech-savvy user can easily override the SafeSearch setting by deleting cookies, so this is only a good solution for youngsters who won’t try to bypass anything.
- Open a browser window and navigate to http://www.bing.com
- Click on SafeSearch in the settings menu
- Choose between off, moderate and strict (moderate blocks images and videos but not adult content in text)
Of course, simply going into the settings and switching SafeSearch to off negates it all, so again, this is best for blocking unintended content.
- Open a browser window and navigate to http://www.yahoo.com
- Log into your account and perform an image search
- In the upper right corner of the screen is an option for SafeSearch – it simply toggles on or off
You can lock Yahoo's SafeSearch, as well, through your preferences.
You can implement all three of the most popular search engines' SafeSearch settings for Androids, iPhones, other smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers.
For Stronger Security – But Still Free
Windows and Mac operating systems include built-in settings to help protect your children from inappropriate content, and they can even limit their time on the computer or device.
This is specifically for Windows 10, so if you're running an older OS, the instructions may be slightly different. Start by adding your family members to your account.
- Click Start > Settings > Accounts > Family & other people
- Add a family member
- Choose whether it's a child or adult
- Type in their email address to send an invitation
- Have them sign in with their email address and password
- Open a browser and go to account.microsoft.com/family and sign in
- Change the settings however you'd like
You can monitor your children's internet and computer activity; block specific websites, apps and games; and limit the amount of time they're allowed to spend on their devices.
The parental controls for Mac OS work in the same way internet browser SafeSearch tools do: It's meant to protect you from seeing unintended inappropriate content. You need to make sure each user has their own account for the computer or device.
- Click Apple menu > System Preferences > View > Parental Controls
- Choose the user account on the left side
- Click Enable Parental Controls > Content
- Choose the setting you want for each account from the following choices: “unrestricted” (nothing is filtered), "try to limit access to adult websites automatically" (this is the default setting) and "allow access to only these websites" (you whitelist sites you deem safe)
Both options are effective, and without the password to your admin account, it would be difficult for someone to change the settings. Still, there are workarounds. So, you may want to try using software that filters out adult content.
Best Free Parental Control App
In addition to filtering content, Qustodio provides insight into how your children use their devices, the internet and the apps they've downloaded. Not only can you block porn sites, searches and access to private browsing options, but you can also set limits for time spent on social media, games and apps. Bonus: This software works for both Windows and Mac OS. There's also a paid version that offers more features.
Best Paid Parental Control Apps
This parental control app lets you monitor your children's internet activity, limit their time spent on devices, block specific websites, filter searches, block online chat programs, and even filter or mask profanity.
If you're looking to see what your kids are up to online, you can opt for a program like this that not only lets you monitor, but also record keystrokes and webcam activity. The spying part aside, this is a good program for filtering out adult content and still allowing your children to use the internet for research and fun.
Blocking porn sites from your internet-connected devices is easy and relatively inexpensive. Start with the free options included with your search engines and operating systems. Upgrading to paid software may be necessary to discourage the extra tech-savvy individuals in your household, or you may prefer the extra features. Regardless, these are excellent ways to keep the internet safe and fun for everyone in your family.