Kids today have lived their entire lives expecting a continuous connection to the Internet everywhere and all the time. Children typically spend much more time online than their parents do. There are unsafe, disturbing, and illegal sites that children can reach very easily if they are not properly supervised. Children are also continuously exposed to the risk of harassment, threats, and other aggressive acts by bad actors without appropriate safety measures. Kids access the Internet through home computers, and also through a wide array of devices including phones, gaming consoles, and tablets. Here are some simple steps you can take to help ensure your kids’ safety and monitor their use of the Internet.
1. Filtering Software
Internet filtering software is designed to sort content found online and classify content accessible by different users. This type of software is designed to block content that parents do not want their children to access, including social network platforms and chat interfaces. Parents should look for applications that include menu options for different types of content or sites that should be blocked. Specific URLs can also be added to a filter list. Typically, a whitelist of allowed URLs can be created, blocking access to all unlisted sites.
Filters for social media apps are becoming more sophisticated as well, filtering and blocking explicit content and suspicious images. Parents are able to control the filters for social media content, and any current filtering program should be designed to send parents instant alerts of any blocked or suspicious content or attempts to access blocked sites or content.
2. Monitoring Software
Relationships between parents and children depend on open communication and trust. Additionally, parents are responsible for protecting their children from dangerous activities. There are a number of applications that are available that allow parents to keep up with their kids.
Apps are available that allow parents to monitor device calls, texts, app use, and GPS locations without their children being aware of the monitoring. Details related to videos viewed can be provided. Alerts can be sent to parents regarding what sites a child accesses on a mobile device and when pictures are shared over social media or other apps. Monitoring apps can also alert a parent to the speed of any vehicle a child is traveling in.
3. Physically Secure Your Home Router
Children know many methods to defeat security measures, and one simple way is physically resetting your home router. Restoring factory default settings can often be done with a push of a button on many router models. Many routers will default to a factory password printed on the router or which can be found with a Google search. With security features disabled, safety features and other settings can be modified. This type of router manipulation can be very difficult to detect, as power outages or surges can cause similar resets. Securing your home’s router in a locked closet or another secure area will prevent physical manipulation of safety settings and other features.
4. Set Internet Access Time Limitations Through Your Router
In addition to safety and security concerns, unlimited internet access causes sleep disruption for many children, along with all of the health concerns that accompany the lack of proper nighttime sleep patterns. Most modern router models feature a setting that allows repeating periods without internet access through the router. If you want sleep hours in your home to be from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., just set your router to cut Internet access during the times you chose. This setting also provides additional protection against hackers during the downtime you assign for your router.
5. Disable Wireless Remote Administration of Your Home Router
Disable the “Remote Administration via Wireless” function on your router. Some children know how to modify security settings on routers, and using wireless remote administration is a common technique used by teenagers and hackers to defeat system security. Disabling remote administration will only allow modification by a user physically connected to the router through an Ethernet cable. By keeping your router physically secure, as described above, you can ensure that only you are able to modify the router’s security settings.
6. Consider the Location of All Computers in Your Home
Always consider low-hanging fruit solutions. Children today want to enjoy using computers in their bedrooms. However, often the simplest Internet security step is controlling the physical spaces where children can go online. Consider creating a semi-private computer and study area in your family room or kitchen where the kids can do homework and enjoy the Internet. Just knowing that you are close by and able to see what they are doing directly can be the most effective security measure of all.
7. Enable Parental Control Features on Mobile and Gaming Devices
Web browsers are not only on the computers you have stationed in your house. Almost all the devices that kids use — mobile phones, gaming consoles, tablets — allow full Internet access. For every mobile Internet device your children own, check the manufacturer’s security and safety settings. Also, look at the capabilities of the filtering and monitoring software discussed above to determine if your best solution is a universal application across multiple devices or a single-device-designed app or internal setting. Regularly check device passwords and settings to ensure no modifications have been attempted.
8. Scan Around Your Home for Unsecured Wireless Access Points
The easiest way for children to defeat all the security and safety precautions you take with your network is to simply use a different network to access the Internet. If your neighbor has an unsecured network that penetrates your house, then kids need only to simply click on the unsecured network. Use your phone or laptop to scan for any unsecured networks that are available on your property. Check all the different locations that your children might use around the house to go online. If you do find an unsecured network present in your home, you will hopefully have a good relationship with your neighbor and will be able to discuss the benefits of protecting their network with a simple password.
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