Do you have a family? If so, you will likely want to do as much as possible when it comes to protecting them online.
While once a fairly simple task (just installing parental controls on the family computer), the rapid adoption of internet enabled devices means that children now likely have many ways to get online.
Top Picks: Parental Control Routers
(clicking the links above will take you to the router on Amazon)
One way of getting around this is to install parental controls on a router. A router with parental controls can be an effective way to protect children from the dangers of the web on all devices on your network.
Parental controls on a router can do several different things including restricting access to certain websites, setting web use time limits, and blocking certain domains or keywords.
When it comes to parental control, not all routers are equal. Because of this, we have made a rundown of several of the best routers with parental control features.
What Are Parental Controls?
There are many different types of parental control and each one has a different use and protects your children in different ways. Here are some of the key features to look out for:
When your children are online, you want to know they aren’t viewing inappropriate content. Good parental control software will let you block content according to the age of child using the internet.
Whether this means only allowing G Rated content for the youngest ones, or allowing everything but R rated content for the older ones, parental controls can help your children only view content suitable for their age.
While when people think of parental controls they probably think of blocking access to unsafe content, a big part of parental controls now is controlling when your children are allowed to use the net.
This is especially important if children have smartphones or tablets that could allow them to access the internet without you knowing.
Block Certain Types Of Traffic
Of course, sometimes children need to use the net for things such as homework. Because of this, many of the devices on our list allow you change the settings to restrict certain types of traffic (video streaming, gaming, etc.)
This means that you can be confident that your child is actually doing their homework when they say they are.
If your router allows you to set customizable profiles it means that you can simply assign each device on your network to the correct profile. This means that you won’t have to set up each device that your children access the internet with individually. Routers with this feature may be great for families with children who have more than one device.
Older children, or those that are tech savvy, may work out that often restrictions can be unblocked by using a VPN. However, some of the products on this list are able to detect VPN traffic and ban it. This will make it much harder for children to get around your controls.
What Options Do I Have To Keep The Family Safe?
When it comes to network wide parental controls, you have three main options. These are:
- Routers with parental controls
- Devices specifically for parental controls
The correct one for you will depend on a number of things including your budget and whether you already own a router or not.
The good thing is that all the above products do basically the same thing, which is keep everyone on your network safe while online.
Use DD-WRT Or Tomato Firmware To Boost Parental Control
If you already have a good router it can be possible to get advanced parental controls using an open source firmware such as DD-WRT or Tomato. This won’t cost anything extra and the controls available are pretty powerful.
The two downsides are that installing open source firmware on your router can be difficult, especially if you don’t have much technical expertise. Also, compared to some of the app based Parental Controls below, using DD-WRT is more complicated.
The other downside is that installing a firmware could potentially void your warranty. Given the chance of ruining your router while installing the software, this is a chance that many people are not willing to take.
Best Routers For Parental Controls
Here are some routers, with advanced parental controls, that we recommend you consider...
1. Circle With Disney - Parental Controls And Filters
This device isn’t actually a router but is instead a device that connects to your network and gives you many of the features that a router with parental controls would give you.
Once it connects to your network, it uses a technique called ARP spoofing to redirect all traffic through the filter, thus allowing the parental controls to work.
It has a ton of options when it comes to controlling what happens on your network including many automatic settings that you can use to restrict access to the internet.
Its key point is definitely its ease of use. You simply need to install the app on your phone and then follow the simple setup instructions on the app. Once setup, you will be able to manage your network from your phone.
Management options include controlling which devices can access the internet at which times, pausing the internet for certain devices, family members, or even the whole network, and filtering content based on age for each individual member of your family.
All in all this is a powerful parental control device, although it is held back slightly by the fact that it is an extra device and is quite expensive. However, if you want an easy solution, this could be the one for you.
2. Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 R7000 (DD-WRT Ready)
Now onto actual routers, the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 R7000 is a powerful router that could be considered for home networks even without its parental control features.
However, the specific one we are looking at today is DD-WRT ready which means it has a whole host of powerful parental controls ready to go.
DD-WRT allows you to configure up to 10 different access profiles to use which should be more than enough for most families. You can also assign different profiles to individual device on your network.
Once you have the devices that people will be using, you can set time limits, restrict access based on keywords or IP addresses, and deny internet access for certain devices. Basically, everything that you would expect to be able to do.
If you are looking for a powerful router with strong parental controls then the Nighthawk from Netgear could well be the way to go. However, setup using DD-WRT isn’t quite as simple as the app based setup of some of the others on this list.
3. KoalaSafe Family Friendly Wireless Router WIth Parental Controls
The KoalaSafe device is an easy to use parental control device with simple access point capabilities. It is not a router in itself as it doesn’t provide DHCP services. You will have to connect it to your existing network so that it can manage devices on this network.
Like the Circle With Disney device it comes with an easy to use app that parents can use to set up a variety of parental controls, internet restrictions, and time limits. Specific services it allows include scheduling when children can use the internet and app and site blocking.
If you are still worried about what people are accessing, it is possible to monitor what people have accessed on your network and what apps and sites they have used/looked at.
The only issue is that because the device uses Wireless N. There is no 802.11ac option.
4. HomeHalo App/Web Managed Router
The HomeHalo is a device that can either be used as a router on its own or connected to an existing network. It has router features such as four Ethernet ports and a WAN port, external antennas, and Wireless N connectivity while also including an app dedicated to its parental controls.
The app itself allows users to manage devices connected to the network individually, and assign them internet schedules, cut the connection, and also block/restrict different types of web content.
An interesting and unique feature is a homework mode, which specifically block programs such as social media and games that can be distracting while allowing sites that children will need for their homework.
All in all, it is easy to setup and manage parental controls on your network using this device.
5. pcWRT 802.11n 300Mbps Parental Control Router
The pcWRT router is a router with parental controls that can also be used as a standalone router.
In terms of its router features it is solid and good enough for everyday use without having top end features. For example, it uses Wireless N which has a data transfer rate of 300 MB per second, when a higher end router could be bought for a similar price which would offer Wireless AC and 1,200 MB per second. (Or potentially more depending on the router.)
However, where it comes into its own is with the parental control features. It allows you to protect an unlimited number of children and devices, each of them using customisable settings. As well as this, it can be used to limit the amount of time spent on the web depending on the profile.
More advanced features even include the ability to force people on the network to use safe search and use Youtube in its age restricted mode.
These features are managed through the router’s firmware, meaning it isn’t quite as easy to manage as the products that use apps for their management software. Although, once you get the hang of it it isn’t exactly hard.
If you are looking for a product that can be used as a standalone router with good parental control features, this could be the one for you.
6. Luma Whole Home Wifi
Luma Whole Home Wifi is a very different product to the others on the list. It is a mesh wireless network meaning that you can link up multiple products easily to provide consistent wifi throughout your house.
The product can also be used on its own to deliver solid wifi with a good parental controls throughout your home.
When a new user or device connect to your network, you able to add a profile and assign them a rating from G to R which will limit what they can see and access on the internet. Through this profile you can also do thing such as add time limits and set bedtimes.
All this is done (along with other network management) through an easy to use app that you can download for your phone.
All in all, this is a good product that makes up for its higher price point by offering Wireless AC, a mesh network setup, and good parental controls.
7. CUJO Smart Internet Security Firewall
This product is neither a router, nor a dedicated parental control setup but instead a firewall with added parental controls. You simply connect it to your existing router and it works as a firewall for your whole network.
Like the other products on this list, the parental controls can be added to all or some of the devices on your network or even to block certain types of traffic (gaming, video streaming, etc.)
Of course, as this is a firewall it also offers extra network protection such as the protection against viruses, hackers, and any malicious incoming connections. While not necessarily designed at specifically as parental controls, this will help keep everyone, including children, safe when online.
If you already have a router that you are happy with, this could be the product for you.