Next Generation Learning Initiative
Parental Controls and Filtering at Home
Many LVUSD families have shared that they would like greater control over their children's Internet access at home, but don't know where to start. While there are certainly dozens, if not hundreds of websites, blog posts, and products out there offering advice on the "best" solution, determining whether or not they will work well for your specific needs can be both confusing and time-consuming.
In an effort to help, the following are our recommendations for gaining better control over Internet access in your home. These are not the only solutions out there, to be sure, but they are options that we know to work well. But first, let's talk about what Parental Controls actually do.
What are Parental Controls?
Parental control are designed for parents who want to monitor or limit their children's online activity. They typically break down into the following three categories:
- Filtering and blocking: These tools limit access to certain sites, words, or images. Some products offer filtering by category (like pornography, gambling, etc.); others leave that to parents.
- Limiting time: This software allows you to limit your children's time online and set the time of day they can access the internet.
- Monitoring tools: This software alerts parents to online activity. This typically includes a record the addresses of websites a child has visited and email alerts when they attempt to visit a blocked or filtered site.
How do I get Parental Controls for my home?
There are generally two ways to get parental controls setup in your home: either by installing software on each device or using parental controls on a "Smart" WiFi router.
While there are any number of software solutions that can be installed on each device, we typically find this solution to be less than ideal. Finding a single software package that works on all of your different device types is nigh impossible, so you'll have to learn how to use and manage several different programs and tools. They don't typically offer a single way to make a change on all of your devices, meaning any updates you might want to make would require you to touch each device individually. They are also generally quite expensive, with per device fees and ongoing subscriptions. And our kids are very creative, often finding ways to disable and/or bypass the software without our knowledge.
As such, we prefer "Smart" WiFi routers with built-in parental controls, which enable you to protect your entire home without having to worry about software licenses on every device, or a sharp kid finding a way around the software. Since the WiFi router is the access point to the Internet for your entire household, there is no way around it. And all of your devices, regardless of type, are protected. "Smart" WiFi routers are relatively inexpensive, and often offer apps for your smartphone that enable you to set filtering and time restrictions from anywhere.
There are a number of "Smart' WiFi routers out there with varying capabilities, however we have found Netgear to be the easiest to use and most comprehensive. You can read more about Netgear's parental controls at http://www.netgear.com/discover/apps/lpc . At this time (Fall 2015) a good, inexpensive model is the R6050 http://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-routers/R6050.aspx . If you are looking for a higher-end router, the R6220 is certainly worth a look: http://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-routers/R6220.aspx . Either should be easy to find at Best Buy or online.