clean router protect

Illustration by Max Fleishman

We seem to be focused on boobs instead of bloodshed.

There is no denying the internet can be a cesspool of porn, violence, and sexism—which, you know, isn't best for children. According to a 2007 study by the University of New Hampshire, 42 percent of Internet users ages 10 to 17 said they viewed porn online in the past 12 months. And 66 percent of kids who said they saw porn online said they saw it accidentally.

Clean Router hopes to remedy those numbers. For just $12.99 a month (plus $199 if you want the Clean Router Pro), you can filter out the seedier parts of internet from every device in your home—from computers to tablets to gaming systems.

The company was started by two dads who worked as software engineers and were concerned about what their children were seeing online. So they invented an internet router to protect their kids from racier sites, including Victoria's Secret—which Clean Router claims is both a source for bras and 12-year-olds' masturbatory fantasies.

Clean Router is Puritan in its approach to the internet. Like a techy Spinoza, ready to block and burn anything it finds morally suspect, Clean Router is effective. In an article on the site weighing the merits of Clean Router vs. competitor OpenDNS, the site suggests that news sites like MSN and Fox contain content that could be deemed porn.

And negative reviews on Amazon claim that the router makes it almost impossible to view anything on the internet.

When I asked Clean Router's PR representative, Lauren Baumgartner, about its stringent nature, she pointed out that the router is flexible. You can allow certain devices and sites to be on an approved whitelist, and there is the ability to both temporarily and permanently bypass certain sites as long as you have the password. Not to mention, there's the option to block nudity of all varieties—from the artistic to the "naturalistic." 

Clean Router is software-based, so that the router is always changing and updating, notes Baumgartner. But with its highly tuned focus on porn, Clean Router completely misses other troubling aspects of the internet—namely, livestreams and graphic images of death and murder. 

Baumgartner notes that Clean Router has a guns and violence option, and they are working to make it more effective with its Version 4 this summer. But while Clean Router has at least three categories for blocking sexual images (Art Nudes, Naturism, and Porn), there is only one category for guns and violence, which mainly focuses on sites that provide information about guns and weaponry. 

Clean Router isn't the first kids-safe router to overlook the violence problem. While the YouTube for kids app, Net NannyOpenDNSMobicip, and routers with filter abilities allow parents to block avenues of violent content, blocking graphic images seems like an afterthought to blocking what seems like Parental Enemy Number One: porn. 

Meanwhile, the internet has developed new ways to broadcast some brutal, nightmarish stuff. Recently, a man in Chicago was shot and killed while livestreaming to Facebook. Last year, two reporters were shot on live TV and the video from the shooter was also livestreamed. In 2013, a 4chan user livestreamed his self-immolation. 

One of my most horrifying memories of the internet is viewing a video of the beheading of a U.S. solider in Iraq. The video was linked in a forum I frequented in college with only the words "watch this" as a preface. More than the porn, more than the sexualized images, that is what sticks with me. And I was over 18. 

But there is hope. When I asked Baumgartner about Clean Router blocking livestreams, she said there was no livestream block. If parents want to block something, they have to do it by individual sites. 

However, she took the idea to the the Clean Router team, which then added the idea to the list of features they are working on for Version 4. So stay tuned—or tuned out.

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