The Internet has made access to hardcore pornography, violent videos, and the ability to strike up friendships with strangers a simple process for kids. Offline restaurants and bars ask for an ID to verify your age, but online there are no such checks. While many adult sites might have a button that asks you to click to verify your age, there is no next step where you then have to provide proof. It is the equivalent of the doorman or bouncer taking the word of every acned teenager queued nervously outside the nightclub.
At the same time, the emergence of a private device for everyone with Internet capability rather than the family computer, means children are free from the fear or embarrassment that their family will see the sites they visit on the communal computer. In addition, when they have their own device, it is much harder to persuade children to hand it over and allow you to implement browser-based surfing controls.
So what can be done?
To answer this let’s break down the topic by two issues:
- What technology is best to do the blocking or monitoring?
- What kind of monitoring should parents do?
Multiple device households needs a different solution
In the case of the first question, you can still use the traditional method used on your family PC. You can install some parental control software on the kid’s laptop/smartphone and then block content around keywords or questionable websites. As mentioned above, this comes with many drawbacks. A mobile device is a personal item and privacy conscious children are not going to be happy to hand over access to their device. Even in the event that a child agreed to this because the device spends most of the time with the child, they would be able to think of ways to circumvent the controls including using incognito mode or a proxy server.
Another approach is that you can have an external device connected to your router that lets you block and observe the online activity of the kids. However, because you connect this device externally to your router, someone can power it off rendering it ineffective.
The right solution for the modern home
Based on the problems described above with existing solutions, the better approach to parental controls is to have them on the router itself. The router is the gateway to the Internet for your house and all devices using your home WiFi network must go through it. Parental controls on the router protect your whole network. With our solution, traffic passing through Almond 3 is analyzed by our cloud and you are able to manage the parental controls in our Almond app.
For those rightly concerned about their online privacy, there is no need to worry as everything you do stays encrypted. We are only interested in the sites you communicate with not the contents of what you say. Similar to the postal service, we only read the addresses of where you are sending letters; we never open or read the letters.
The limitations of blocking
The traditional browser based methods mentioned above block sites based on certain keywords. In other words, censorship. While this is effective, most psychologists or online safety groups advocate understanding and engagement. Don’t be judgmental about your kid’s surfing habits, but rather create a dialogue so that they can get different perspectives on what they are viewing, put it in context with the real world, and learn how to protect themselves.
Dialogue and understanding
Securifi’s solution addresses the shortcomings of blocking: rather than blocking sites, it classifies browsing history for each device on your network and also gives it a rating. For example, Amazon.com goes under “Shopping and E-commerce” while a website like Ashleymadison.com “Dating”. Our service can sort websites into a total of 83 categories which users can see via our mobile app. We understand that having 83 categories and making sense of them can be daunting; therefore, we have further categorized them into 5 movie based ratings: General, PG, PG-13, Restricted etc. Viewing web history using the movie rating helps you make sense of your kid’s online activity in a much shorter time.
Furthermore, if you think that a category allocated by us for a particular website is wrong, you can suggest a category change and we will update it in our database.
Almond will also tell you how much data each device consumes. This feature can be very useful in helping you figure out if anyone is downloading too much and creating a bottleneck in your WiFi network. You can also see if your kids are consuming too much data during their bedtime.
A complete set of supervision tools
Securifi’s smart routers have for some time now already included parental controls which enable you to block and schedule any device’s access to your WiFi network. In addition, you can also opt to receive notifications anytime a device joins your network, see a list of all the devices that use your network, and drill down for each one to get information like how long they have spent online. You can even connect our service to IFTTT and record in a spreadsheet the surfing times of all the devices on your network.
We were the first router to integrate with Amazon Alexa and parental controls is one of our many voice activation skills.
Here at Securifi, we believe that watching what kids see online and initiating a discussion with them is a better approach for parental controls than straight away blocking online content. Blocking websites creates incentives for kids to use other sources for accessing the Internet like an internet cafe or the cellular network. By putting these controls on the router parents are able to cover all the devices on their network and easily manage them through our app.
Almond 3 and our IoT Security Service
Web history ranking is a part of our new Mirai botnet IoT security service available for Almond 3.
The award-winning Almond 3 is a mesh router and smart hub combined-in-one. With Almond 3 you can blanket your home with seamless WiFi, connect up all your smart devices, and then control them with voice, buttons or an app.
Already the smartest router on the planet, it is now the most secure consumer router as well. It is the only consumer router capable of protecting your home network against Mirai botnet malware. Learn more.