Is There a Way To Control Internet Access at Home?
Internet access is essential for families. But many parents are rightfully concerned about risks associated with their kids’ unmonitored online activities. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) [*]:
In 2022, people under the age of 20 lost $210.5 million to online scams. But encountering fraudsters is just one risk that young people face on the internet.
Hackers, online predators, and cyberbullies are rife on social media, gaming platforms, and chat forums. Yet while 46% of parents worry about what their children are being exposed to online, just 23% regularly monitor what their kids do online [*].
It can feel overwhelming to try and protect your kids from online threats. But as your children spend more time on the internet, there’s a much higher chance that they’ll be exposed to inappropriate content and dishonest or even dangerous people online.
In this guide, we’ll explain how you can control internet access at home, block inappropriate content, and get warned about cyberbullying and online predators who are targeting your family.
What Are Parental Controls?
Parental controls comprise a range of tools and features that allow parents to monitor, restrict, and control how their children use mobile devices, computers, and other internet-connected devices (like gaming consoles).
Most connected devices — including wireless routers, computers, mobile phones, and gaming consoles — contain some level of protection against explicit or harmful content. But these digital security tools aren’t foolproof.
The challenge for most parents is keeping up with their tech-savvy kids.
21% of parents admit that they don’t know how to set up parental controls properly, while 24% expect their children will find a way to evade the restrictions [*].
Here is an overview of the benefits and limitations of using parental controls:
“Smart homes” offer convenience and connectivity, but are rife with security flaws.
Unless you take time to set up parental control software properly on all of your children’s devices, your family members could be at risk every time they use your home's Wi-Fi system.
How To Set Up Internet Parental Controls at Home
Here are seven ways you can help protect your children from online threats, limit internet and app usage, and monitor what your kids are doing online.
- Set up parental controls on your Wi-Fi router
- Schedule daily “internet black-out” periods
- Scan for nearby unsecured Wi-Fi networks
- Enable parental controls on your child’s phone or tablet
- Set up parental controls on your child’s gaming console
- Keep laptops and smartphones in shared spaces
- Encourage responsible social media behavior
1. Set up parental controls on your Wi-Fi router and modem
Most modern Wi-Fi routers include security and privacy features to control internet use in your home. For example, common brands such as NETGEAR and Linksys offer parental controls that allow you to block specific domains and keywords.
As the choke point for your home internet, a parental control router can apply web filters to all of your kid’s devices on the network.
How to control internet access at home via your router:
- Enable site restrictions through your home Wi-Fi router. You can set restrictions on your network by creating time limits or by blocking specific websites. You can block websites by adding specific URLs or by uploading lists of websites that you don’t want your children to use (e.g., adult websites, gambling sites, etc.).
- Keep your home Wi-Fi router away from the kids. Children can reset your router’s settings by restarting the device, and they can bypass parental controls by plugging directly into an ethernet connection. Minimize the chances of your kids tampering with the router by keeping it in a secure location — for example, in your bedroom or in the attic.
- Disable the wireless remote administrator feature. This feature permits access to your router's settings from outside your home network. Turning off this function is important to prevent unauthorized access or potential security breaches.
💡 Related: The 10 Best Parental Control App for iPhone (2024) →
2. Schedule daily internet black-out periods
You can encourage a healthy balance between screen time and other activities by setting clear boundaries around device use. With set times for turning off the internet, you can promote offline activities — like reading, outdoor play, and family time.
How to control internet access at home with black-out periods:
- Talk about the plan as a family. Help your children understand the need to moderate screen time, especially for healthy sleep habits and family interaction. Together, come up with ideas for other activities to enjoy when gaming and social media are not options.
- Determine the downtime. After chatting about everyone’s needs, decide on the ideal times to restrict internet access. For example, access may be off limits during homework hours, dinnertime, and bedtime.
- Set the black-out periods on your router or parental controls app. Log in to your router's administration settings, and customize the time-based restrictions to switch your internet connection on and off at specified times. You can also use Aura’s Pause The Internet® feature to automatically shut off mobile internet access.
3. Scan for and shut down any nearby unsecured Wi-Fi networks
If your children have access to unsecured networks — such as a neighbor’s Wi-Fi — they could view adult content or end up on unsafe websites.
Phishing sites may trick children into disclosing sensitive personal data, like your address or credit card information. You can cultivate a safer online environment for your family by removing options that allow connections to unsecured or unfamiliar networks.
How to control internet access at home by blocking unsecured Wi-Fi networks
- Conduct a Wi-Fi search from your home. Access the Wi-Fi search feature on your cell phone or laptop to check for available networks. Run a search from multiple access points in your home, including your child's bedroom. With each check, you might find hotspots and networks from neighboring properties.
- Check for open networks. Any network that doesn’t require a password poses a risk. If you detect unsecured networks with strong signal strength, they’re probably coming from a house or building nearby.
- Talk to your neighbors. A casual conversation with your neighbors or nearby business owners can help you find the source of unsecured networks. Explain your goal of protecting your children online, and ask the neighbors to put a password on their wireless network.
💡 Related: How Hackers Get Into Your Computer (And How To Stop Them) →
4. Enable parental controls on your child’s phone or tablet
In 2022, the FBI was hunting an extortionist who targeted teenage boys on Instagram. The fraudster posed as a California woman who coerced young boys into sending nude images before threatening to share them with their families unless the kids paid a ransom [*].
Without reliable parental control apps, your children can easily access inappropriate content — or end up in conversations with threat actors and online predators.
How to control internet access at home on your child’s smartphone or tablet:
- For all mobile devices: Aura’s family safety app lets you monitor your child’s mobile device, block or restrict access to specific sites and apps, set time limits on games and apps, or completely turn off internet access. You’ll also get Safe Gaming features that can warn you of cyberbullying or inappropriate comments made to your kids when they’re playing games on their Windows PC.
- For iOS devices: Apple's Screen Time settings let you manage app access, game usage, and downloads and set specific downtime periods. You can manage settings on Macs, iPhones, and iPads with a password. Alternatively, the Family Sharing option on your Apple account will be harder for crafty teenagers to circumvent.
- For Android devices: For children under 13, Google's Family Link allows you to track and control your kid’s online activity from your phone, including text messaging and social media. It’s also possible to track teenagers’ devices on Family Link — but you can’t lock the settings.
💡 Related: How To Block Websites on iPhones and iPads [4 Ways] →
5. Set up parental controls on your child’s gaming console
Gen Z spends an average of 12.2 hours per week playing video games [*]. For young teens and kids under 10, too much time spent in virtual worlds can cause real-life problems.
As kids become obsessed with online games such as Minecraft, Fortnite, or Roblox, other aspects of their lives may suffer, including diet, personal hygiene, relationships, and mental health. Parents must monitor their children’s gaming activities in order to spot the signs of online gaming risks.
How to control internet access at home on gaming consoles:
- Implement time limits on gaming. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that kids should game for no more than 60 minutes on school days and no more than two hours on non-school days. While based on an older study, these remain solid guidelines to prevent excessive screen time [*].
- Use Safe Gaming tools. You can set up built-in parental controls to monitor for cyberbullying or predatory behavior. For example, you can block in-game purchases and get notifications about inappropriate messages or potential online scams.
- Limit or block chat features. It's a good idea to disable the chat function completely for younger children. Encourage teens to use voice chat with speakers rather than headphones. If there is any abusive language or suspicious behavior, you'll hear it.
💡 Related: Qustodio vs. Bark: How To Choose Which One Is Right For You →
6. Keep laptops and smartphones in shared spaces
You can monitor gaming activities by keeping your children's consoles in the living room or kitchen. While many kids — especially teens — will likely protest, this approach makes it easier to keep tabs on how your children use the internet.
By reviewing the sites and apps they use and their interactions with people online, you can ensure a safe and secure digital environment.
How to control internet access at home by using common workspaces:
- Create house rules. Make it clear to your children that they can’t use their devices in their bedrooms. As an exception, you could permit laptop use for homework during set hours.
- Set up a workspace in a shared area. You can create an inviting study space with a table, comfortable chairs, charging stations, and multiple outlets. Encourage everyone to do their homework here together.
- Set a device bedtime. By insisting that everybody in the house leaves their devices in a basket in the kitchen, you can combat late-night scrolling and gaming — and promote healthy sleep habits. Alternatively, you can Pause the Internet® at night by using Aura’s family safety app.
💡 Related: How To Prevent Cyberbullying →
7. Encourage responsible social media behavior
Over 500 school systems are engaged in a federal lawsuit against social media companies accused of fueling a mental health crisis upon today’s youth. At least one-third of girls aged 11-15 admit they are addicted to platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Facebook [*].
And for many, social media contributes to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. Parents must teach kids about responsible social media use — emphasizing how to avoid risks and be kind to others.
How to control internet access at home for social media:
- Prevent children from accessing social media too soon. Most platforms have minimum age requirements, but younger kids often create profiles. Evaluate your child's maturity, and ensure that your kids aren't using social media before they're ready.
- Educate kids on privacy awareness. Talk to your children about the potential consequences of sharing personal information online, such as home addresses and phone numbers. By discussing social media privacy, you can help them make smarter decisions around photo sharing, location tagging, and accepting friend requests from strangers.
- Address cyberbullying. Show your children how to treat others with respect and kindness online (and offline). By helping kids understand the impact and signs of cyberbullying, you equip them with the tools to prevent bullying and support their peers. Similarly, you give them a process by which to report issues if they are on the receiving end.
If you want to build trust with your kids and promote open dialogue about their online activities, parental controls provide just one part of the solution. Even the best parental controls are not replacements for creating a culture of open communication around safe internet usage.
💡 Related: Aura vs. Bark – How To Choose the Right Parental Control App For You →
How To Talk to Your Child About Internet Safety
If your children find themselves in tricky situations with cyberbullies, scammers, or online predators, they will need more than digital security tools to stay safe. Relying on built-in parental control features and standard firewall protection isn’t enough. Just like deciding when your child should get a phone, you need to build a solid foundation of trust and respect around online safety.
With a vigilant approach and open communication, you can educate your children about the risks of the internet and offer support when they need it most.
Here are eight ways that parents can talk to kids about online threats:
- Focus on online privacy. Explain the importance of internet safety, emphasizing why kids shouldn’t share personal information online, like their addresses or school names. Show your child how to use privacy settings on all web browsers, apps, and platforms.
- Create strong passwords. Emphasize the need to set up unique login credentials on all online profiles so that kids can prevent hacking.
- Encourage open communication. Kids tend to keep things secret when in trouble — online or offline. But when you create a safe environment to discuss issues, you can make it easier for your children to come to you when they have a problem.
- Share examples of child identity theft. Educating your kids on the dangers of identity fraud will help them understand how the digital world poses real threats. With a better grasp of the consequences, your children will be more cautious online.
- Teach them the warning signs of scams. You can prepare your kids by encouraging them to read content about common online scams, like phishing emails.
- Create response systems. Work together as a family to create a step-by-step guide for responding to different incidents. For example, if your children receive lurid messages from strangers on chat services like Omegle, or are getting picked on by other kids online, they should know exactly what to do next.
- Show kids how to block and report online bullies. Most platforms offer dedicated tools and systems for reporting issues. Teach your child how to deal with inappropriate conversations — from taking screenshots to filing official reports and blocking people.
- Explain appropriate online behavior to your child. It's vital to teach your children proper online behavior. Make sure they understand how to spot suspicious activity in conversations. For example, if a stranger asks your child for photos or sends lewd YouTube videos, it is imperative that your child knows how to recognize these red flags.
💡 Related: YouTube Parental Controls: 4 Ways To (Easily) Get Started →
Aura Keeps Track of Your Kids When You Can’t
Controlling what your kids do online is a full-time job. Technology can help you monitor your children’s games, apps, and social media use. But kids will inevitably encounter inappropriate content or risky online situations — either in your home or at a friend's house.
Many children find their way around basic tools and restrictions — so you must prepare them to protect their privacy and spot signs of potential threats on the internet.
Aura provides the best protection to safeguard your family from online threats, including cyberbullies, predators, and scammers.
Aura’s Family Plan includes:
- Award-winning parental controls. Aura includes content filters, screen time limits, and blocking features to control what apps and sites your kids can access. Aura was a 2022 Mom’s Choice award winner.
- Safe Gaming tools. In partnership with Kidas, Aura can scan communications across hundreds of PC games and send parents email alerts about potential exposure to cyberbullying and online predators.
- Family identity theft protection. Monitor your children’s personal information for signs of fraud, including their Social Security Numbers (SSNs).
- Antivirus and a virtual private network (VPN). Protect all of your family’s devices from hackers and malicious programs with antivirus software, and hide your IP address with military-grade encryption.
- 24/7 U.S.-based customer support. If anyone in your family falls victim to identity theft, Aura’s dedicated Fraud Resolution Specialists are ready to secure your children’s identities and guide you through the recovery process.