How can i block the kids internet access in the evenings?
July 10, 2007 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Is there a free solution to block internet access at specific times of the day?

I want to be able to block access to the internet (i am using a usb adsl modem) at certain times of the day from the kids. They have been sitting up to all hours on MSN messenger and Bebo on school nights and sneaking out of bed to use the connection etc. What i need, ideally, is a freeware program (or configuration option) that will allow me to access (via a password?) the net connection but block it from them at these times
posted by mrbenn to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First question: do you only have one computer in the house?
posted by malaprohibita at 1:17 PM on July 10, 2007

Take the power cord to the modem.
posted by lilithim at 1:25 PM on July 10, 2007

If you're using a Linksys WRT54G, the DDWRT firmware has this feature built in. It works marginally well.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:27 PM on July 10, 2007

Low tech: If the DSL modem needs external power, get one of those electrical socket timers that people use for lighting trees for certain hours. Or, unplug and sleep with the USB cable next to your bed.

For almost everything, physical access is ultimate control, and kids usually have the imagination, time, and patience of prison inmates. Beware of getting a shiv in the back or a tricky work around for whatever you devise. A social solution is more likely to work than a technological one.
posted by cmiller at 1:31 PM on July 10, 2007

I also think physically taking the modem or other nonstandard and necessary bit (network cable, adapter) is most likely to work. If you do get a freeware/shareware program to limit connectivity the first thing they are going to do is search for "how to get around x program/keyloggers/etc."

Alternatively, just kick them off and set a password they don't know in Windows and log off, disallowing guest logins.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 1:41 PM on July 10, 2007

If you're running Windows XP, the free Microsoft download Windows SteadyState lets you establish individual user accounts with all kinds of limits, on a shared computer.
posted by paulsc at 1:47 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've seen this from both sides, blocker and blockee.
Unless you want to double check every day, I advise going with a physical solution rather than a software one. Software is weak, kids are relentless, a perfect pairing for failure. Not to mention the sheer fact that searching for un-blocking software may easily lead to the seedier side of the web, and your computer could become infected if they download some trial program they think will work.
The ideal solution to this is restricting the modem itself. At the end of the night, unplug it and lock it in a secure box. A bit of a pain, yes, but a very high compliance rate. I'd go the extra mile and cover the box with bells, but that's just cause I'd love to catch them when they tried! Don't restrict access via taking any cable unless you know they're non-standard or hard to find. You didn't mention their ages, but if they're old enough to have friends who can buy things online, it's easy to buy a replacement modem cord. Don't just unplug the cable, cause they'll figure that one out pretty quickly.
posted by Meagan at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2007

Definitely physically disable the modem - either by removing the power cord if it's reasonably difficult to find a replacement or hide the entire modem. Kids are more computer-savvy than they seem (or they have friends who are), and any software-based blocking can be overcome fairly easily. I know this from personal experience - my friend had parents that would do things of this nature and we'd consider it a personal challenge to circumvent whatever blocking method they put in place (this included Windows passwords, DSL passwords, all sorts of things).

Though, as a warning: this is an uphill battle. As I said, if your kids are anything like I was, they will see this as a challenge.
posted by wsp at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2007

If you don't find a good free solution, I recommend Spector Pro ($100), made by Spectorsoft, which I have used ... it's excellent and easy to use. It allows you to designate times of day when the internet is inaccessible from the computer. (It also records, via screen shots and keylogging, everything that is done on the computer.)
posted by jayder at 2:10 PM on July 10, 2007

You could easily show them this website, as a horrible warning to what happens to people addicted to the internet.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:27 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Next question: do the kids have a wifi-capable machine and do you have any neighbors with open access?
posted by Zed_Lopez at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2007

Nthing that software won't work, you need to take a physical component away.

And whatever you remove, make sure it's something expensive. I knew a guy who carried a keyboard to and from school every day so his parents wouldn't find it in his room... they'd decided that keeping his (other) keyboard under lock and key would be an ideal way to limit his internet usage. My own parents tried to take away the telephone cord (dial-up) and we ended up owning several cords, stashed in unlikely places.

(Btw, congrats on your kids, after they win the fight for the internet they won't be technologically helpless, unlike some of their peers.)
posted by anaelith at 3:10 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

As an aside, make sure the admin account on your box has a password. You'll need to reboot the computer into SafeMode to get the admin account to show up, then log in and change the password. My sisters kids were getting around her parental controls by logging on in safe-mode.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:18 PM on July 10, 2007

Couple answers:
1. Consequences. Do it again? Computer lives in Dad's room. Plz try again. Rinse/repeat as you're ignored.
2. The default linksys firmware allows you to limit connections by IP address and time, it works. Just make sure you change the default pw for the router.
3. Keystroke logger. Get their infoz and change the pw's. Now you get to log on when daddy logs you in.
4. Did I say consequences? I mean, you do realize that with the proliferation of web cell phones, et. al. there will be no shortage of access.
5. Literally block all ports but 80, at least to those IP's, and then limit the time they can do that.
6. Find a hack-my-box website, and tell them that when they've rooted 3 boxes, you'll take off their restrictions.
posted by TomMelee at 7:31 PM on July 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

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