A basic requirement for today’s homeschool environments is the ability to connect to the internet. Whether we’re accessing science labs, doing research, engaging with other online homeschool communities, or doing a wide range of any other activities, it’s safe to say that without the internet, the process would be dramatically different. In some instances, our ability to help mold our children and expand their learning horizons would be stunted.

This, however, presents a fundamentally different challenge, especially for those parents that may not be as technically inclined as others. In this article, we will explore the various ways parents can take control of their internet environment and create family-friendly environments for their kids and anyone using the internet at their home.

This topic has the potential to be extremely exhausting, so we will limit it to the Top 5 things every parent should consider when building a family-friendly network:

1 – Leverage Content Filtering Technology

The internet has tens of millions of domains and billions of websites on the internet today. No one individual can stay ahead of all the information. One way to help with this is to leverage content filtering technology.

As the name implies, content filtering technology allows you to control what can be accessed on your internet. For example, if you want to stop someone on your internet from accessing Facebook, Twitter, Discord, or any number of other social media platforms, a content filtering platform can typically help you with this.

Content filtering platforms can often be found in parental control services and are often embedded in your home internet router as well. Not all content filtering services are the same, and they all leverage different technological techniques to deploy their filtering.

For example, CleanBrowsing is a content filtering platform and can be deployed in your router or on the device directly.

2 – Leverage Parental Control Features on Devices

Most modern devices offer some form of parental control, but they are not always leveraged for two reasons:

  1. They have a tendency to overcomplicate things for parents
  2. We tend to be technically illiterate as parents or we assume “my kids will never do that” and then neglect to add enough control features

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, we highly encourage parents to take a proactive approach to manage their kids’ devices. These devices offer our kids a gateway to an unfettered environment, and the impacts of what they see and find can follow them for a lifetime. Here are three important of questions designed to help you think about how proactive you want to be:

  1. Do you care if your child is up at 2 am playing video games?
  2. Do you care if your child can access malicious, obscene, or pornographic content?
  3. Do you want your children affected by what they might find on the internet?

Even today, in 2021, the internet is still very much the Wild West, and it’s still completely unfiltered. This means they are able to access content that most parents can’t even imagine.

Leveraging parental controls features on our devices will help do things like:

  1. Set up schedules for access
  2. Control the type of apps they can download
  3. Control the type of videos and music they can see and hear

Trust me, I get that it is hard. I, too, have three children that were homeschooled during the pandemic, and each has multiple devices. As frustrating as it was to set up each device, I kept thinking of the potential impact and harm that would come from not doing it.

3 – Differentiate between Administrator and Standard Users

This is probably the most underutilized tool in a parent’s toolbox when it comes to creating a safer internet environment at home. Every Mac and Windows device has the ability to differentiate between what a user can do on that device, and they do this by using something called “roles.”

These roles are typically defined as “Administrator” and “Standard User.” By default, every user created is an Administrator. The odds are, you purchased the computer but your child configured it. That, or you both share the same computer and they just log in with whatever the main user is. If this is you, that’s OK – been there, done that.

  1. How to Create a Non-Administrator User in Windows
  2. How to Create a Non-Administrator User in MacOS (link coming soon)

Reducing the user’s role goes a long way to controlling what happens on the device. It can be used to control what a user can change, can limit what can be installed, and can also help control what is accessed.

4 – The Home Router / Modem

We can’t talk about creating a family-friendly network without spending a minute talking about your home router/modem. Everyone has one, and it’s likely one of those things you rarely spend much time on, but I can almost guarantee that as your kids get older, they will get savvier and more in tune with what a router does.

This device is often issued to you by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and functions as the gateway to the internet. Without it, there would be no internet connection.

So, it’s important you take a minute to ensure that you do the following:

  1. Make sure to use a password to access the router and the Wi-Fi network. Do not leave it widely accessible to anyone that visits it.
  2. How you log into the router should be different than how you access the WiFi network. Some parents will find it easier to create the same password for the access panel to the router and the WiFI (SSID) network. Do not do this, as a clever user will try this at some point.
  3. Ensure you check router software for updates on a monthly basis. Not all routers are created equal; some will update automatically, others won’t. Running an update will ensure that it applies all appropriate security patches and helps prevent remote access.

5 – Stay Informed

This is probably the hardest recommendation because it’s not as tangible as I would like. Technology is changing at breakneck speed, and the area that concerns me the most is social media platforms.

No, social media platforms do not care about the parents’ woes or the effects these platforms have on our kids and families, so it’s imperative that as parents we are aware of what each platform does so that we can make active decisions if it’s something we want to share in their lives.

Platform Brief Description
SnapChat Used to share images / videos that disappear over a short period of time.
TikTok Used to share images / videos, most commonly known for their reels and videos. They do a fairly decent job at filtering adult content.
Facebook Social platform that many parents will be familiar with. They do a fairly decent job at filtering adult content.
Discord A messaging / video / chat app highly leveraged by kids. It’s an entire ecosystem inside this app.
Twitter Used to share snippets of information, think of it as microblogging. They do a horrible job of filtering content, except politics.
Instagram Used to share pictures and videos. They do a pretty good job of filtering highly obscene or pornographic content, but most everything else is left wide open.
OnlyFans This is an upcoming platform that is designed to monetize your fan base. There are different iterations of this platform, but it’s used heavily for adult content.
WhatsApp / WeChat / Signal These are all messaging apps, similar to what you find on your phone, but they boast higher security and disconnect from big tech / ads.
YouTube Video distribution platform. They do a good job at filtering adult content.

While the router is the gateway to the outside world, these platforms allow every user in your home to access an entirely different world. As a parent, you have to make the decision what you believe to be acceptable in your home, and you do this by first understanding what exists and what each network does.

Armed with that knowledge you can take a proactive approach to creating a family friendly internet environment at home.

Look for more articles to come about more steps you can take to keep your family safe from negative online influences and create the most positive learning environment possible in your home.

We believe that raising children is a family’s God-given right and calling, which is why we support families with encouragement and practical resources like you found in this article.

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