Internet Parental Control in a Multi-Device Household
The modern connected household has changedNo longer is there one PC connected to the internet, the household now consists of multiple devices, being used by individuals at different times.
How can we be sensible with the appropriate protection of our minors? Firstly I would advocate education over restriction. However, as parents, we also have a duty of care, and should ensure that children aren't accidentally exposed to areas of the internet that they should not yet see.
There are ways to control and configure individual devices with parental controls, by logging in and making adjustments, but we found that it never quite worked out for what our family needed. I preferred more of a networking approach to the issue.
I reshaped our household network, to consider the following - two zones, one where the children's access is restricted:
In the diagram, the children's devices - laptop, iPads are configured, such that there are time limits imposed - you don't want to lock off any internet access at times where they should be sleeping, especially as this could occur when you are asleep. It's best to block it off.
Children's devices are routed via OpenDNS which allows a level of filtering to be imposed that restricts access to sites or certain categories of sites. Further an internal DNS server is in place to handle safesearching.
Most of the control comes by using the devices MAC addresses. Every device on your network has one, find out what it is and you can control those devices.
Limiting TimesI have a TP-LINK TL-WDR3600, a not overly expensive device. This allows you to define Hosts, Rules and Schedules. I am therefore able to create profiles to block the internet at certain times for certain devices.
I also blocked youtube - note the blocking of googlevideo.com, which was required to stop it appearing on the iPad versions.
If you have no need to separate the parental internet filters from the children's filters, then the easiest thing is to plug OpenDNS entries into your router, like this:
Limiting Sites Available
If you want more control with of individual machines on your network, then you need to look at alternatives. There are some products out there which I have not tried , and did not want to buy a new device, but these would involve looking at Netgear Parental Controls (need a new router) and DNSThingy (monthly subscription and a new router that supports it) or Circle a review of it here. What put me off circle was that I have 4 different wifi access points (3x2.4Ghz and one 5GHz), its also going to cost you $10 per month, but it looks good. Definitely some interesting options there, and getting better all the time.
I did however already have a Synology DS413. This solution should work with any Synology NAS running disk station (DSM) 6.0. You can buy cheap(ish) 1 bay devices such as the DS1116 which would be capable of performing the duties required, as well as providing other benefits to your household network.
I wrote about how to setup the network to provide different machines with different nameservers in my previous article Synology DHCP Server using Multiple NameServers - Parental Control over the network for Some PCs using OpenDNS
SafeSearchingIt's not until your child searches for something that you don't want them to, either deliberately or accidentally that you start to consider this one. I had previously just thought - you can't block search from the internet, but perhaps you should consider how search works in your house.
In this case, I'd recommend using OpenDNS to block the search category, but add your own filter to allow google.com. This means you don't need to worry about how every possible search provider handles safe searching.
I wrote about it in my post Synology DNS to Force Google SafeSearch.