With the rise of video streaming and social media, keeping kids safe on the internet is a growing concern for many parents. Routers not only manage your home's wireless networks, but they can also manage who has access to what online content.
Every router is slightly different, so consult your model's manual, but here are a few key ways routers can help keep everyone online safely.
Accessing your router's settings
Before you can customize and manage your home's internet connection, you'll need to access your router's settings.
To start, open your preferred web browser on your computer and type your network IP address into the address bar. By default, most routers use 192.168.1.1 as the IP address. If that doesn't work for you, you can look up your IP address by right-clicking on your internet icon and looking for details or settings.
For Mac users, the IP address can be found by clicking your Wi-Fi symbol, then scrolling down to click on "Open Network Preferences."
Once you've typed your IP address into the address bar, you'll need credentials to edit settings. Some routers have this information printed on the router itself or in the user manual or manufacturer website.
Once you've logged in or accessed settings, there are a, depending on your specific router's features.
Schedule web surfing
Most routers with parental control options include a setting for scheduling. This means you can schedule the network to turn off at a certain time every day.
Some include scheduling for specific devices, so you can choose your child's laptop, tablet or gaming console and disconnect it from the Internet at, say, 8 p.m. every weeknight.
Restrict specific websites
In addition to scheduling, some routers include parental controls for specific sites. You can choose specific URLs to block on specific devices in your home, so you can keep your kids away from whichever websites you want.
Netgear, for example, does this through the Netgear Genie app powered by OpenDNS to create custom filters for your network. Devices used by adults can be configured to bypass filters and have unlimited internet access.
Pause the internet
If you're just looking to keep distractions at a minimum during dinnertime but don't want to set up any specific schedules or restrictions, pausing the connection is a great tool.
Newer routers and mesh networks likeinclude a companion management app to allow you to pause the internet connection on some or all devices and resume it as soon as you're ready.
Add a router accessory
If you love the router you already own but want to add parental controls, there are add-on devices out there to help. Plug in modules like the Router Limits or Circle with Disney connect to your router and manage internet access and rules for multiple connected devices.
Some devices and apps can even budget a certain number of minutes to each device, then allow children to earn more internet time by doing chores around the house. That's a great way to teach children to responsibly manage and balance their screen time without a parent wrenching the device out of their hands.
When you're customizing your router settings or adding on a device to manage access, it's important to take steps to keep everyone safe on the internet. For parents looking for more guidelines on internet browsing, screen time and keeping kids safe, there are a number of online resources, including Connectsafely.org and Family Online Safety Institute.