Thanks again to Dan who has he put together Part 2 of our series on how to filter and control access to the Internet using your router. Today’s post contains affiliate links. Thanks always for your support!
In our Part 1 post we explained the basics of how our devices, such as laptops and
iPads, connect through our home network to reach the Internet. We used an analogy of an office phone system for the Blog, She Wrote headquarters (HQ), with your router being the receptionist, and directory assistance being your Domain Name System (DNS) servers that tell you the current IP addresses (phone numbers) for your favorite website like Blog, She Wrote. We saw that since everything going out to and coming in from the Internet goes through the router, it can be a powerful ally in controlling your network.
How To Talk Directly with Your Router & Get It to Do What You Want
To make friends with your router and get it to do what you want, you first need to be able to talk directly to it. To do that you need to figure out what internal IP address it is at, sort of like determining what extension the receptionist’s phone is. Generally every model of router has a default internal address that it gives itself. You can look this up in the directions for your router, or do a simple Google search for your router model number (found somewhere on the back or bottom of it) and ‘default IP’. In MS Windows you can also go under the Start Menu to Accessories, Command Prompt, and then a new window comes up, type ipconfig. The router will be listed as the gateway. Once you locate it, you simply open up a web browser (like Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, etc.) and type that address into your web browser instead of a website address. So, you would type into the address bar: 192.168.1.1 instead of www.blogshewrote.org. If you have the correct address you should get a web page asking you to log in. If you have never changed the username and password on your router, another web search should help you find the default ones. If you haven’t changed them, please take this time to change them. It is not good to leave the router with the default username and password since even the bad guys know this information so they can use it to do bad things on your network.
Once you get into the router you will be looking at web pages sent to you by the router to interact with it. You will have menus to click through and fields you can type in. Click around a bit and see what is there. Don’t be afraid that you will mess something up, just don’t confirm or save anything until you are sure of what you are changing. Most routers made in the past 5 years or so have some level of access control features built into them. These settings allow you to set hours when Internet access is turned off, either for specific devices or for everyone. It may also allow you to block certain websites by name or certain services. Since each device is different, I can’t cover the specific details on how to set these options on your router. All I can do is point you to the directions for your router, either the ones that came with it, or a manual you find through a web search on the website of the manufacturer.
Block by MAC Address If You Can, Not IP Address
One important thing to note is that a common way for routers to do this is to block by the IP address which, as we discussed in our last post, can be dynamic and change over time, which can be a problem. In that case the device will be no longer blocked or the wrong computer will be blocked. A better way to do it is by using the MAC address to specify which device to block, as this does not change but the MAC address can be harder to find on your devices. The best way to figure out how to find it is through our friend Google again. Simply Google your device name / model and “MAC Address” to locate directions on how to look-up your device’s MAC address. In some cases you can look that information up on the router itself as you click through the menus on the web pages.
So, going back to our analogy, setting restricted access times for devices on the network is a bit like telling the receptionist at our Blog, She Wrote HQ not to allow any outbound calls from specific extensions at specific times. This does not prevent someone from calling another internal extension, as this does not go through the receptionist, nor our router. So, kids could still print to the wireless printer, play games over the network with each other (in the same house), and other types of activities that don’t involve contacting an Internet server or website. Or, if your neighbor doesn’t secure their wireless network with a password, kids can always connect to their network and bypass everything you are trying to do. Be a good neighbor, secure your Wi-Fi with a password.
In our household, I have the router set to turn off all Internet access for the kids devices at 9 PM and to leave it off until 8:30 AM the next morning. That way the kids who wake up early don’t have hours of unsupervised time on the Internet. I also have a distracting site or two blocked during school hours to keep a few of our older kids from wandering there online during school time. You could set earlier times for younger kids’ devices and later times for those who stay up later. There is usually a limit to the number of rules you can create, but if done carefully, you can get by with the 5 – 10 rules you are given.
Make Sure You Have The Right Router for The Job
If you find your router does not have these access features built into them, or cannot filter by MAC address, only IP address, purchasing a basic new wireless router that does have these features is not that expensive, and can be well worth the effort. There are many options available for under $50.
Here are a few:
- NETGEAR Wireless Router N300– This router is specifically designed to work with OpenDNS to control Internet content though it doesn’t seem to allow easy set up to turn all Internet off at certain hours. (This one appears to be part of the deal of the day at Amazon 3-11-14)
- Linksys WRT54GL Wireless- G Broadband Router– Another option for a router that will meet the basic needs for both OpenDNS and time based controls
It is important to note that if your kids devices can operate over cellular signals, such as smartphones, or tablets with data plans, this method will not work. It will only work for devices that need to connect over Wi-Fi or physically plug into the network to connect. If this is a smartphone or tablet with a data plan, control must be done one the device itself, as it can connect to the Internet in other ways. At this point I cannot offer any assistance on this as we have not reached this point yet in our parenting. Again, doing a Google search on parental controls for your specific device might be the best starting point for further learning.
In Part 3 we will deal with filtering the content that is allowed in when the Internet is on.