Let's face it, kids are extremely savvy when it comes to getting around any parental controls we attempt to put in their way. Many kids see parental controls as a mere temporary roadblock that can be easily circumvented, and they are right for the most part.
What's a parent to do? I'm not going to go into some flowery discussion on how you should sit down and talk with your kids and explain trust, limits, boundaries and all that kind of stuff because I'm sure that they will probably give you the same thousand-yard stare that they gave you when you asked them why they haven't taken the trash out after you've told them 3 times already.
Kids are kids, and they will naturally push their boundaries until they receive push-back. In this article we're going to treat your kids like they are an insider threat and you are playing the role of the security guy trying to keep the insider from getting to places they shouldn't be.
As a parent, your time is valuable. You likely don't have time to go to each and every one of your child's internet connected devices and apply parental controls to each because that would take forever, especially if you kid has a cell phone, iPad, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, PS3, Xbox 360, Kindle, etc. You could spend a week just configuring parental controls for those devices alone.
You need something that will be globally effective across all their devices and your home computer as well. You need to block things at the router. If you can successfully block access to a site such as YouTube at the router level, then it should be blocked on all of their devices, no matter what browser or method they are attempting to use. This is not to say they won't find a way to get around this, but at least you've done your best to try and protect them.
Here's How to Block a Site at Your Router:
1. Log in to Your Router's Administrative Console
Most consumer-grade routers feature setup and configuration via a web browser. In order to access your router’s configuration settings you usually need to do so by opening a browser window and entering the address of your router. This address is usually always a non-routable IP address that can’t be seen from the Internet. Examples of what your routers address might be include: http://192.168.0.1, http://10.0.0.1, or http://192.168.1.1.
Check your router manufacturer’s website for details on what the default admin address is for your router. In addition to the address, some routers require connecting to a specific port to access the administrative console. Append the port to the end of the address if required by using a “:” followed by the port number required.
Once you have entered the correct address you will be prompted for the administrator username and password. Again, the default username / password should be available on the router maker’s website. If you changed it and can’t remember it you may have to reset your router to it’s factory defaults in order to gain access via the default admin login. This is usually done by holding down a small reset button on the back of the router for 30 seconds or more (depending on the brand of router)
2. Go to the Access Controls / Firewall configuration page.
Once you have gained access to the router, you will need to locate the “Access Restrictions” page. It may be located on the Firewall page but some routers have it in its own separate area.
3. Establish a Rule for Blocking Access to a Specific Domain (i.e. YouTube.com)
All routers are different and some may or may not have the ability to set up access restrictions. Below is the general process for creating an access control policy to block your child’s access to a site. It may or may not be effective, but at least it’s better than nothing.
You will want to create an “Access Policy” to block the specific site you don’t want your child to have access to. Many routers offer Website Blocking By URL address, where you can enter in a site’s domain, such as youtube.com, or even a specific page.
Start by naming the access policy by entering a name such as “Block Youtube” in the “Policy Name” field and choose “Filter” as the policy type.
Some routers offer scheduled blocking so that you could block a site between certain hours, such as those when your child should be doing homework. If you want to use the schedule option, set the days and times when you want the blocking to occur.
Enter the site name you are interested in blocking in the “Website Blocking By URL Address” area.
4. Save and Implement the Rule
Click the “Save” button at the bottom of the rule and click “Apply” to begin enforcing the rule. The router may state that it must reboot in order to enforce the new rule. It may take several minutes for the rule to be implemented.
5. Test The Blocking Rule
To see if the rule is working, attempt to go to the site that you blocked. Try accessing it from your computer and a couple of the devices that your child uses to access the Internet, such as their iPad or game console.
If the rule is working then they should get an error when they attempt to access the site that you have blocked. If the block doesn’t seem to be working, check your router manufacturers website for troubleshooting.
For more strategies for keeping your kids safe online, check out our article: 8 Ways to Kid-proof Your Internet Parental Controls.