During the summer, kids are out of school with a lot more free time on their hands. If your kids are like mine, after a long day of playing outside, they enjoy playing a few games, watching Netflix, and browsing YouTube Kids. They do all these things on an iPad. One of the things you’ll want to think about is how you are protecting your children from the not so nice parts of the internet. Another thing you’ll want to consider is how much time they are spending on the internet as well.
There are a lot of options out there to assist parents in protecting kids from inappropriate behavior and managing screen team. I’ve used quite a few of them, and they all have their strong points. Here are a few options to consider.
OpenDNS Family Shield
One of the first (and easiest things) to do for your home network is to enable OpenDNS Family Shield. OpenDNS, owned by Cisco, is a free DNS server. DNS (Domain Name Server) is like the phone book for the internet. When you go to 9to5toys.com, your DNS server connects it to the actual IP address.
OpenDNS Family Shield is a free set of DNS servers that blocks these categories: Tasteless, Proxy/Anonymizer, Sexuality and Pornography.
Changing your DNS servers can be done on your devices, but it’s much easier to change it at the router level. Each router is different, so you’ll want to use the instructions that came with it for references. Look for the DNS Servers section, and change it to this:
Once you are done, save it, and then visit this page to test it. Once it’s set up, all devices on your network will be filtered by OpenDNS Family Shield.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s trivial to change DNS settings on individual devices, so consider this a “screen door” approach. It’s going to be a great backup, but it’s not going to be a fool-proof solution.
curbi is a parental control service for iOS and Android. You install the parent app (iOS or Android, and then it will walk you through getting it set up on your child’s devices. On iOS, it uses VPN technology to monitor what sites and apps your kids are using, gives you the ability block the internet at certain times, create automated rules for accessing various types of services (social media, etc), and remotely control device restrictions.
They offer a free plan to access some basic features, but the premium upgrade is where the best features are located. Check out their pricing page for additional information.
eero Plus – $300
If you have the eero Wi-Fi routers, you may want to consider upgrading to eero Plus. eero Plus customers will have the option to turn on Safe Search, as well as three filtering options to apply to device profiles. The plus upgrade is $99 per year, and it also includes free licenses for 1Password, Encrypt.me VPN, and Malwarebytes.
Google Wifi – $264
If you have Google Wifi, you can enable SafeSearch on your child’s devices to automatically block millions of adult websites. It’s a free feature, so I even enabled it on all of my devices as well. It’s enabled within the Google Wifi app, and Google has a walkthrough available for set up. Google Wifi also allows you to group devices together (Kid’s iPads, etc) and pause their network access with the push of a button on the app.
Circle By Disney – $99
Another option for your home network is Circle with Disney. It pairs with your existing router and allows you to manage all your devices. You can set time limits, filters, and even provide rewards (extra time) if your kids do chores or other home tasks. You can also add on Circle Go, which uses a VPN to monitor devices when they are off your network. Be sure to check compatibility with your existing router.
These are just a few options I’ve used in the past. I get asked these questions a lot from friends of mine, and one thing I always close with is to not rely 100% on technology to keep kids safe. Pay attention to what your kids are doing online, and have honest discussions about what they are doing. Doing this will help them become better digital citizens in the future.