In the past we used to call it posh if a family owned one computer and kids felt lucky themselves if they occasionally had access to it, when their turn came. Nowadays, most families own several devices – at least one laptop, probably also a PC, some smartphones and even a tablet.
Given the technological developments they’re confronted with, more and more parents tend to worry about the safety of their children online. How much time they spend online, what they have access to, and what websites they surf, are just a few of the questions on top of their list. Since it became close to impossible in this time and age to keep a close eye to the activities of the children, technology came up with a few alternative solutions.
We previously talked about ways to track and monitor kids both online and offline via intelligent software. Now it’s time to take a look at ways to control children’s online activities through the use of hardware devices. Trying not to pass the thin line between monitoring and spying, we gathered a few of the most useful devices that you can discover below.
Blocking Adult Content with D-Link Routers
Depending on the degree of tracking you’re looking for, there are a variety of modems and routers that block certain types of content on a computer. Starting with the less aggressive one, most D-Link Routers are equipped with a feature enabling parents to block adult content. The disadvantage in this case is there is no possibility of creating profiles or only blocking the content on certain devices, rather than all of them. At the same time, it isn’t an entirely efficient way of blocking it, as the same content can sometimes still be accessed using local storage.
Filtering Content and Limiting Time – iBoss Router
If it’s not just the adult content you’re worried about, the iBoss Home Parental Control Router allows a more in-depth filtering of the content by category – there are almost 50 different categories to choose from. The content can also be filtered by keyword – you can simply limit access to websites that contain the keyword “violent” or “porn”.
Apart from blocking content, the router also allows users to set time limits and profiles – this way your children will only have access to internet for limited amounts of time and multiple persons can use the same device under a different profile. This allows children to browse safely, under the settings you decide, while you can also browse on the same computer without content restrictions.
Unfortunately, there are always a few disadvantages – the router, for example, limits the number of profiles you can set to only three. This means it is much more suitable for small families with only one or two children and not a wide range of devices to control.
Gaining Total Control – Skydog Router
In case you’re faced with a similar problem but you wish to have total control, meaning you have a big family and a variety of gadgets and devices connected to the same router, you might be looking for something more efficient. We’re not just talking about computers here, but about anything from tablets to laptops, as well as consoles. The Skydog router comes with a three year subscription to the Skydog Cloud Services that can be renewed once the time has passed.
By connecting to the Cloud Service offered by Skydog, you can enter all the router’s information, pick up a name and password for your network and start creating profiles, adding users and assigning devices to each one of them. The settings are very easy to control – while there are a few default filtering schemes, you can also design your own. Now you know why we chose this in our list of best routers to buy.
Something else than a router: eSafeKids
While the most well-known hardware device to be used for parental control in the router, there are other options. One of them is the eSafekids parental control device that can be plugged into your router or DSL/Cable modem. The device doesn’t have a degrading effect on your PC and can be used for the entire house – on any device, with a variety of settings. What eSafekids does varies from IM chat monitoring to content filtering, as well as reports on your children’s online behavior.
The features included are not just limited at these, but you can also create profiles and choose to monitor one computer only – it also works on any other device or gizmo you might want to track. The online tracking tool that comes with the device allows to see what websites are visited by your children, whom they’re talking to and who’s trying to talk to them – all this in real time!
With any other router
If any of the options listed above sounded like too much of a financial struggle for you, there’s no problem. All you really need is just a simple router, no matter what brand it may be. Since your children may be using a variety of devices – iPads, iPods, Kindle, Nintendo and many others – it can be complicated to set each device on its own. That’s where your router comes in. All you have to do is follow the steps:
- Log into your Router’s Console: this depends on your IP address and can be anything similar to http://192.168.0.1 or http://192.168.1.1. You can find it out by checking the website of your router’s manufacturer – some routers might require connecting to a certain port in order to have access to the console. Once on the right administrative console, you will be asked for your username and password, which should be available on your manufacturer’s website.
- Click on the Access Controls or Firewall Configuration tab available on the page – depending on the way your manufacturer structured the console, you should be able to see a tab specifically designed for control settings.
- Choose the websites you want to block and when – the administrative console will not allow you to filter the content as much as a special router, but it allows blocking certain websites at all times or during specific times (i.e. when your kids should be doing their homework); you will need to generate an Access Policy, where you enter a name for it, the website’s name and all desired settings.
- Save the policy and test it – don’t forget to click on Save and choose to Apply the rule you established; you can then test it on your own computer.
While it can be a useful way to limit your children’s internet access via your router, this solution is not as powerful as the ones before. One of the disadvantages is the fact that the rules you choose to design will be applied to all computers and devices connected to the router and not just to your children’s devices. You will neither be able to create profiles and manage more detailed settings, but it can be a good starting point.