This is a guest post from Jennifer Tuohy.
Have you ever sat down at a computer in the library, tried to login to your favorite social media site and get a message that says, “This site is restricted?” Many workplaces, educational institutions, and government offices place limits on the types of websites that can be accessed through its systems for a variety reasons.
While it can be annoying to come across these restrictions, what if you could them at your own home? Homework time suddenly becomes a lot easier. No more hovering over your tween’s computer to make sure she’s not on Facebook instead of doing homework. And not only that, but what if you could shut off the internet entirely — from say, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.? Wouldn’t those family dinners be so much more peaceful and productive without the bings and bongs of notifications from everyone’s devices?
To achieve this happy state, all you need is a little bit of tech know-how and a good wireless router. Here’s a look at three ways you can control your family’s access to the internet, including when, for how long, and which sites they visit.
Through Your Existing Router
You may have all the tools you need on hand already. Using a computer connected to your home network, access your router’s web interface by entering the router’s IP address into your web browser’s address bar. (This can usually be found on the router itself and looks something like “http://192.168.1.”) Once you're there, you’ll need your access code or password, normally also found on the device. Now you’re “behind the scenes” of your router and can configure the web traffic it allows through.
Exactly how you do this will vary based on the brand of router you have. If it’s supplied by your internet service provider, you may need to use their software. Most new routers today have parental controls built in. For example, Linksys has its “Smart Wi-Fi” program in all its newer models. These types of controls will allow you to block certain websites, either permanently or during pre-specified times, or shut off the internet connection entirely.
You can choose which devices are restricted, so you can still browse Facebook on your work laptop while your daughter’s computer is social media-free. You can also set times for the blocking to take effect, such as no YouTube or Netflix during homework time, or no internet at all after 8 p.m.
With Special Software
If your router doesn’t have parental control features, you can download special software to provide them. (Note that this is different from products such as NetNanny that you put on individual devices.) OpenDNS is a well-known free router software option. Your router manufacturer or ISP may also offer a package. For example, Linksys has its Linksys Connect software.
The advantage of this type of software is that it comes with pre-configured tools such as dynamic filtering to block adult content, and is more explicitly designed to help preempt your children’s online adventures. It’s also a little easier to navigate than some router settings. Parental control software can also allow you to set up white lists, so a device can only go to the approved sites, which is useful for younger children. A word of warning, though — these systems only work with web browsers; they don’t block apps individually. But you can use device settings to restrict your child from downloading certain types of apps directly on their tablet or smartphone.
With a New Router
To get the best of both worlds, you can buy a new router that comes with robust parental controls built in. Some of the newest models also have an accompanying app that allows you to control your child’s internet access right from your smartphone, which is far easier than diving into the router’s settings.
There are many new routers on the market that offer this significant step up when it comes to control, not to mention speed. One such is the Luma Intelligent Home Wi-Fi system, which has an app that lets you do things like set time limits for each user, pause the internet for specific devices with a touch of a button, and receive alerts when a user wants access to a new site — all from your phone.
So, if little Timmy wants to visit Nick.com for the first time, you can decide to block or allow him from your phone, even if you’re not home. That way, you won’t have to rely on Dad or the babysitter being able to figure out your router settings.
Managing the internet in your home is a recent addition to the parenting to-do list, but a crucial one. We need to be able to control what our children see online, and manage their screen time and access to the internet. Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of how to do so.
As a mom of two, Jennifer Tuohy is constantly looking for new gadgets and technology that can help with parenting. As she learns about the best tech out there, she passes along her findings to her readers — including best router options for parental control. You can find the wireless home router options Jennifer talks about in this article at The Home Depot.