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Low key home network monitoring possibilities?
September 20, 2012 10:23 PM   Subscribe

Now that my kids are getting older and wanting to use more stuff online from a wider range of devices, what can I do to keep an eye on what they're doing?

Having the rule that computers are in public parts of the house only goes so far, and is not desparately practical. I'd like to keep an eye on how much time my daughter is wasting on skype, minecraft, youtube and image sites when she's supposed to be doing homework for example. Just to make things more complicated, I don't really have full control over the school computer that she uses. Also with the proliferation of other devices that get connected to the home network (e.g. ipod touch etc), this all seems to me to become quite a tricky issue.

I'm sure that this is going to be more of an issue over time what with other kids, and developing independence etc, not to mention when they start getting interested in 'adult content'. What do other ask metafilter parents do?
posted by singingfish to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had a long discussion about what was and was not appropriate internet behavior for them, made sure they understood and agreed and trusted them. I realized there was no way I could track everything nor did I want to. As you point out, too many devices, too many other access points and I had no desire to be a full time cop. We would periodically, have follow up discussions. We did require that they lock all their accounts in terms of privacy settings. In terms of time usage, you can track that on your router. I set up some parent rules on my router that cut off various device access to the internet at scheduled times during school nights. With a smart phone with a data plan, that was almost impossible to monitor unless I was going to be monitoring software monitoring them all the time.

My ex had (has?) passwords for their email, FB, Twitter accounts in case of...well...I am not sure what it is in case of, but I know she will occasionally log in to make sure they are behaving appropriately, but I chose my kid's privacy over knowing what she was looking at. Once they got to high school, it is no different than any other issue. Hope they know right from wrong, hold your breath, expect the occasional mistake and hope it becomes a learning experience not a life changing event.

For the most part, I think early education about netiquette, proper privacy precautions, appropriate language, security precautions and a discussion about different types of bullying was a much better deterrent than the threat of and actual monitoring.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:18 PM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'd like to keep an eye on how much time my daughter is wasting on skype, minecraft, youtube and image sites when she's supposed to be doing homework for example.

Sounds like you have reached the age where monitoring switches from process to product. Presumably if her school is sending laptops home, they have online access to assignments and grades, so as long as you are checking that site every day, you'll know pretty quickly if there's an issue with her getting her homework done and turning it in. You know how much time she's spending "doing homework," so if she misses an assignment or you see a change in her day-to-day scores, then you step up your at-home monitoring & assignment-checking for a bit.

The "parent portal" at my kids' school is a great resource; there is a world of difference between "what homework do you have today?" and "You need to get through Act II by Friday and you have a math quiz tomorrow."
posted by headnsouth at 12:15 AM on September 21, 2012


Their your kids and it's your choice on how to raise them. However, please be aware that the more restrictions you apply in this area of their lives the more likely your kids will feel trapped and want to hide their activity, especially since when they become teenagers. I'm not saying that your kids are untrustworthy or that they'll do bad things online but even good kids don't want to feel policed all the time.

Anyway, Just know that the first thing she might do is Google at school "how to hide my online activity". There's a wealth of knowledge out there, and if your kids are even halfway smart they'll be able to follow a tutorial on how to feel safer from -you- much less strangers and creepy people. Just have an honest talk about bad people that may be online (give examples like "someone on a chat room who asks you to meet or send pictures") and then....take a deep breath and trust your kids.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:36 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ugh sorry typed from iPhone.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:37 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have wifi or a cable company router? Ignore the devices (iPod/laptop/etc) and control and monitor it where it comes into your home.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:06 AM on September 21, 2012


Sorry, just realized I linked to the paid version of OpenDNS. There are free tiers that work as well. You don't needed to install any software, you just change one setting on your router, and then every device in your house gets the same restrictions/rules automatically.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:11 AM on September 21, 2012


However, please be aware that the more restrictions you apply in this area of their lives the more likely your kids will feel trapped and want to hide their activity, especially since when they become teenagers. I'm not saying that your kids are untrustworthy or that they'll do bad things online but even good kids don't want to feel policed all the time.

This is the thing, I think. Kids need rules, but they also need (some) freedom to bump up against those rules. Now is the time to teach them how to manage themselves online, manage their time, etc. The internet and all of its fun little devices and sites is all about self control. It is never ending. The earlier you can get them to learn the lessons of that kind of self control, the better off they will be.

(My parents were fairly autocratic about rules and monitoring, and as such, to some extent, I am still not terribly skilled at self-motivation and self-management. I never had to learn how to manage in a world with no restrictions until I was trust into adulthood with no skills. It sucked and still sucks.)

Anyway, it is absolutely possible to monitor everything that happens on your network. (Mostly) With the right filtering software, it might even be practical to manage. But it is a double edged sword. How much do you really want to know? What are you going to do if you see them misbehaving somehow? Figure that out before you start.

And then realize that that all goes out the window the first time you catch them doing something. Your home network becomes untrusted, and they will figure out other ways to get access.
posted by gjc at 7:12 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


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