Take Charge of Your Family’s Internet Connection
Gone are the days when confiscating your child's device was the only surefire way to get them off the internet. There are now plenty of options that give parents control over their family's WiFi network, including tailored access to individual laptops, tablets, smartphones, game consoles and smart TVs, at the click of a button. Many are low or no cost, and even the most technophobic parent can set them up.
These network-wide parental control technologies allow you to filter content, set device time limits, pause the internet and block specific domains or keywords. They come in four main formats:
- routers with parental controls,
- family-friendly filter devices,
- firewalls; and
- support from internet service providers (ISPs).
Routers with Parental Controls
Most newer WiFi routers come with at least cursory access control features that allow you to turn your internet connection on or off at specified times and days. However, setting up customised schedules for individual devices may be tricky for those without a bit of technical background. That's where the new generation of parental control routers comes in. These units allow parents to set time limits, block apps, view usage reports and access internet pause buttons, all with user-friendly interfaces and apps for easy management and control.
Popular choices include:
Family Friendly Filter Devices
If you aren't in the market for a new router, a good option is to buy a device that connects - either directly or wirelessly - to your existing router to give you the same features. Once connected to your network, it redirects all traffic through a filter. There are a number of these types of filters on the market, and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner recommends using a product accredited under the Communications Alliance's, ‘Family Friendly Filter’ scheme. These filters have undergone rigorous independent testing regarding effectiveness, ease of use, ability to be configured, availability of support and agreement by the filter company to regularly update the filter.
Family Zone has received accreditation in this category.
Several other popular unaccredited plug-in filters that may be worth considering are:
Filters may also come in the form of network security software, or firewalls, that monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic and allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules. These filters must be installed on every device for them to be effective. Norton Family Premier from Symantec has received accreditation as a "family-friendly filter".
Other popular unaccredited products in this category include:
For comprehensive reviews of these parental control software packages, visit parentalcontrolnow.org.
Support From Internet Service Providers
Some internet service providers (ISPs) provide routers or other types of support incorporating parental control features as part of their digital products. The Communications Alliance Ltd website has a detailed list of these services available from companies like Telstra, iinet, Foxtel, Optus, TPG and Vodafone. For those living in regional areas, it is worth noting the remote community telecommunications specialists, Australian Private Networks,(trading as Activ8me), is the only ISP with a certified Family Friendly Filter.
- Control network-wide WiFI access using routers, filters and firewalls.
- Certain products have received national accreditation under the 'Family Friendly Filters' scheme.
- Check with your ISP for parental control features they offer as part of your service.
Useful Screen Resources
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner website has excellent resources on parental controls called 'Taming the Technology'.
Family Friendly Filters Scheme: Communications Alliance Ltd
Best Parental Control apps for 2020: Parental Control Now