The Internet is a wonderful thing, providing unlimited access to so many things that are useful and entertaining – all of the time, 24/7. Unfortunately, it also provides access to some unwanted things that you may not want in your house, especially if you have children at home. And, there are times when the “24/7” thing isn’t a good idea either.
Happily, there are ways to limit and control what comes over your Internet connection, and even when it can come through to your house. Collectively, these methods are called “Parental Controls.” Parental Controls allow you to limit, or not limit, two things: content and access time.
For starters, you may access controls to block certain web sites or certain types of content like shopping, gaming, or “adult” web sites from coming into your home at all. More sophisticated Parental Controls may also let you block specific content at certain times, and/or from certain devices (computers, tablets, game consoles) or for certain users. Parental controls can also include a way to show you how the Internet is being used in your home, by device or by user.
Centralize Parental Control
It is possible to put filters into a particular computer or other device, so that only that device is limited. But if the user that you wish to limit is the least bit Internet savvy, it is possible to circumvent or disable those single device filters. The solution to this is to do the limiting or filtering centrally, through the Internet router as it distributes the content to your house. Some level of content blocking or filtering is possible with any Internet router.
Blocking Unwanted Content and Sites
It may be that, in your house, it will be enough to simply filter a type, or types, of Internet content before it comes in. A simple and effective way to do that is with a free service called “OpenDNS” (at https://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security/). To use OpenDNS, you select from a list which types of content you want to limit coming into your home. Then you’ll need to change some default settings in your router. (It’s pretty simple, really.) The changes you make cause any Internet request from your home to be instantly checked against a database of known sites. OpenDNS is free, it does not affect performance, and it is very effective but does filter content for every device that uses your Internet connection.
Blocking by Time and/or Device
Most home Internet routers include parental control settings. These usually include the ability to control access by device and sometimes include controls for filtering by app and/or by time of day. The Xfinity cable router includes a reasonably sophisticated set of filters for controlling access by device, by content, and by time/date. For example, you can set your router to only allow Internet access for a gaming console between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on weekdays, but allow it to be wide open on the weekends. Because it is built in to your router, this type of filtering is also free.
Blocking by User – AND By Remote Control
You can also use blocking options any which way that you want them, by content type, time and day, device, or by registered user. This gives you control of which devices in your home have access to the Internet, and at what time of day they have that access. You can limit it to certain hours of the day, and by the particular device. This type of filtering is much more sophisticated, and if you’re a Comcast/Xfinity customer it is included with your account. But, even if you don’t have Comcast, it isn’t necessarily expensive. Search the web for “safe Internet” to find a useful selection. You control it all by logging on to your Comcast/Xfinity account website at https://internet.xfinity.com
Mike Pepper, The Computer Guy, has been providing software and hardware support in New York and Connecticut for more than 35 years. He can be reached at (845) 855-5824, or www.PawlingComputerGuy.com.