Recently I was speaking to a group of parents that were frustrated with the hoops they must jump through to manage their family’s wireless networks. So many households today have smart TV’s; multiple smartphones, tablets and laptops that are used simultaneously. That 50mbps broadband service that they thought was overkill last year had slowed to the pace of their dial-up-modem back in their college AOL days. Moreover, they fear their kids are accessing content that might even embarrass Howard Stern.
What’s a mother to do? Good question. In the home, it all starts with your router.
The router can determine who gets “the juice” when you’re watching NetFlix while your daughter is streaming Youtube videos. Wait, I thought we filtered out YouTube? It can help there as well. However, the wireless router that came from your broadband provider might not provide all the management features that today’s families might need.
Frankly, it can be a complicated mess if you’re not technically inclined.
There are seemingly an infinite amount of solutions: Some require buying your own router. Others include subscription based, software. None are perfect. However, if you adopt just one of these solutions, coupled with heart-to-heart discussions with your children about your expectations – you’ll resolve 95% of your troubles.
Earlier this year, Gadget Review wrote an informative article concerning the best routers for the home. Their top five picks were priced from about $120 – 290. Although pricey, with the advent of aforementioned smart TV’s, NEST thermostats, Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, RUKU, Google Chrome and Amazon Prime coupled with smartphones, tablets and laptops in our homes, we’ve been asking a lot from our routers.
Moreover, setting parental controls on those carrier provided routers requires an engineering degree from MIT, or help from your 6th grade son. However, remember he’s the reason you’re locking your network down in the first place.
If you’re interested in reading more about Gadget Reviews top router picks for 2016, you can access the article here.
So maybe you don’t have an extra $200 – $300 stashed in the cookie jar and you’re looking for a more economical approach to managing your home network. Look no further than OpenDNS. With a little time and patience, you’ll be able to lock your network from untoward use. But teens are great at working through even the most cumbersome network circumstances through such things as free VPNs. More about those in a future article. Stay vigilant.
Sadly, the router only handles what goes on in your home. To that end — there are software services that can help even the most bewildered parent. In the mobile world, my favorites include uKnowKids and TeenSafe. Both do a pretty good job of helping you monitors your child’s mobile activity, including certain text/messaging applications, browsing and location. However, no parental control will monitor every app. Programs such as SnapChat and Kik are architected to avoid monitoring. As such, select a tool that is right for you and make certain you control what apps your child may have on their devices. How do you do that? Control the password on your child’s device related to the Google Play or iTunes App Store. If you don’t control that password — you won’t know what your child is doing – or with whom they’re communicating.
Recently, Common Sense Media did a good job providing an overview of other parental controls and management tools. These include a look at browsers and other computer-oriented controls such as: NetNanny,Qustodio, Safe Eyes, and BSecure.
It’s a bit like the wild, wild, west out there. Technology is rapidly changing – as are the loopholes that teens and tweens find to circumvent your digital control. Stay up-to-date on these trends by visiting us frequently. Don’t get frustrated. Your kids are only teenagers for six years.
Imagine what technology your grandkids will be using.
Beam me up grandma.