How to Set Up Internet Parental Controls

Keep the kids from jumping over your firewall

What to Know

  • Try first: Physically lock the router, set router-enforced time limits, disable remote administration, scan for unsecured access points.
  • Try next: Enable parental controls on devices, keep the PC where you can watch it, enable activity logging.

This article explains ways to prevent children from accessing the internet without your permission on PCs and other devices.

How to Set Up Internet Parental Controls

Our kids are more tech-savvy than we can ever hope to be. We block a website, and they find a way around our blocking software. We put up a firewall; they go through it. What's a parent to do? We can never be sure that any of our parental controls will work, but we try our best to keep our kids safe. Here are several ways to your internet parental controls a little more effective and harder to circumvent.

Young girl using laptop on sofa
Cultura RM / Sunny Henzel / Getty Images

Talk to Your Kids and Set Boundaries and Expectations

Let your kids know what is expected of them by teaching them about child internet safety. Explain to them that you are trying to keep them safe and that you expect them to be responsible. Let them know that while you trust them, you will still verify that they are following the rules and that their online use can and will be monitored. Explain that internet access is a privilege that shouldn't be abused and that it can and will be taken away if they don't meet your expectations.

Physically Lock up Your Router

One of the easiest ways for your child to circumvent your security settings is to reset your router to its factory default settings. This usually involves simply pressing and holding a reset button located on the back of the router. Once the router is reset, most routers will default to wide-open wireless with no encryption, revert to an easily googled factory-set password, and have most of their security features disabled. The kids have an easy alibi because they can plead ignorance and blame it on a power spike. Lock the router in a closet or somewhere way out of reach to prevent them from pressing the reset button.

Set Router-Enforced Time Limits for Internet Access

Most routers have a setting that gives you the ability to cut off access to the internet at a certain time of day. You lock your doors at night. Do the same for your internet connection. Go into your wireless router's setup and turn off your internet connection from midnight to 5 in the morning. It's like a child lock for the internet. Time limits also prevent hackers from being able to attack your network during the set time-frame. You have effectively isolated yourself from the rest of the internet during the hours when most hackers are just starting on their second can of Red Bull.

Disable Wireless Remote Administration of Your Router

If you turn off the Remote Administration via Wireless feature on your router, then someone trying to hack into its settings (such as your child or a hacker) would have to be on a computer that is physically connected (via an Ethernet cable) to the router. Disabling this feature doesn't prevent you from changing your router's settings; it just makes it a little more inconvenient for you, your child, and hackers.

Scan for Nearby Unsecured Wireless Access Points

All of your firewalls and filters go out the window if little Johnny attaches to your neighbor's unsecured wireless access point and starts leeching off of their internet connection. This overrides your internet parental controls because your child is using a different network entirely.

Use the Wi-Fi search feature of your Wi-Fi enabled cell phone or laptop to see if there are any open Wi-Fi hotspots near your house that your child could connect to. It's best if you do the search from inside their bedroom or wherever they normally get online from. You may be able to determine where the hot spot is originating from by looking at the signal strength meter as you walk around their room. Talk to your neighbor, explain your objective, and ask them to password-protect their wireless access point. It not only helps you enforce your parental controls, but it also helps keep people from getting a free ride courtesy of their unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot.

Enable the Parental Control Features on Your Child's Game Systems and Mobile Devices

Parents often overlook the fact that kids can get to the internet via game consoles, iPods, and cell phones. It's important to set internet parental controls on all personal devices. These gadgets have web browsers just like your home PC does. The filters you install on your computer will do nothing to stop your kids from visiting forbidden sites using their mobile device or game system. Thankfully, most devices kids would use, such as the iPad and PlayStation 4, have parental controls that you can set to restrict the content that your kids can access. Read up on these features and implement them. Periodically check the device to see if the password you set is still in effect. If not, your child may have reset it and disabled the controls.

Put Their PC in an Open Area of the House

It's hard for your children to visit inappropriate websites if they have to use the PC in the kitchen. If the PC is in a well-frequented area where you can see it, your kids are less likely to attempt to go to unauthorized sites. Kids may love having a PC in their room, but consider moving it somewhere less private so you can keep an eye on what is going on.

Enable Activity Logging on Your Router and PCs

Your child will most likely figure out how to cover their tracks by deleting browser histories or by enabling private browsing mode where no history is kept. The best thing you can do is purchase monitoring software that your child will not easily defeat or detect. Periodically review the log files to make sure your kids are staying out of trouble. You can also configure parental controls in different browsers for another layer of protection. 

Another option is to enable activity logging on your wireless router. Logging into the router will allow you to capture connection information even when your child uses their mobile devices or game consoles (unless they are using another wireless access point other than yours).

  • How do I block a program from accessing the internet in Windows 10?

    Turn on Windows 10 parental controls, then select Start > Settings > Accounts > Family & Other People > Manage Family Settings Online. Select More Options > Content Restrictions > turn on Block Inappropriate Apps And Games and Block Inappropriate Websites. Choose apps to restrict.

  • How do I block a specific website?

    Blocking a website is a different process depending on your browser and operating system. To block websites through your router, enter your router's IP address into your web browser and provide your user name and password if prompted. Then select your router's privacy or security options and enter the sites you want to block.

  • How do I turn my internet off?

    To turn off your home internet, turn off Wi-Fi from the Windows Control Panel or Mac menu bar. On iOS, open Settings > Wi-Fi, and on Android, go through Settings > Network & Internet > Internet. Another option is to pause your router's Wi-Fi, though the process differs depending on the model.

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