How to limit daughter's access to wireless internet
January 16, 2008 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Please help my friend limit his daughter's access to the internet at night.

Here's the situation: my buddy trusts his fifteen-year-old daughter to access the internet unsupervised, but has of late found her on the net at two in the morning. She's accessing using her Mac via their Airport base station. Thus far he's logged her off every night at 9 p.m. and changed the password.

The problem is that she (says that she) from time to time needs access to the net to do homework. He goes downstairs and logs her on, but then her computer remembers the password and she's free to do whatever she wants unless he goes back and changes the password again. But meanwhile all the other computers on his home network can't be used until the newest password is entered.

Technical or social approaches to this problem are welcomed.
posted by Turtles all the way down to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can't she budget her time so that she gets her net homework done before 9?
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:22 PM on January 16, 2008

He should explain to her that he doesn't want to think that his trust in her has been misplaced. She now, therefore, has two options:

1) The computer remains in her room, but if there is activity after X time (later on Fri/Sat maybe), it's moving to the living room. Period. This will give her a chance to regain the trust.

2) It's moving to the living room now.

That's the draconian option. The other option is: are her grades suffering? Is she generally doing okay? Teenagers have weird sleep habits & needs, and she was probably fine--as long as it's not a regular thing staying up until 2.

So, option 3... "Hey, okay.. being up until 2 is not okay. But maybe 9pm is too early. So, from now on you can [[insert option 1]]."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:28 PM on January 16, 2008

Best answer: Don't look for technical solutions to behavioral problems. If you fix the technology, she'll find a way around it. Fix the behavioral problem.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:32 PM on January 16, 2008 [6 favorites]

A social solution would be best, but from a purely technical standpoint, your friend should familiarize himself with OS X's Parental Controls.
posted by Zozo at 3:43 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: [blue_beetle's answer marked as best because it summarizes what is clearly emerging as the consensus]
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:45 PM on January 16, 2008

A technical fix would be to log into the Airport Base station, find her MAC address and set it to deny access after 9pm.
I am not a Airport owner, I just like routers.
posted by lilithim at 3:47 PM on January 16, 2008

That consensus emerged a long, long time ago amongst the technologically literate. It's a shame it's taking the rest of the world so long to catch on.
posted by flabdablet at 3:49 PM on January 16, 2008

Is the concern primarily with what she is doing online at that hour or that she is online at that hour at all?

If her grades appear to not be suffering and your friend trusts that his daughter is not getting up to anything hinky online, then I would suggest just leaving her be. At that age, I regularly started homework at 10:30 and finished at maybe 2:15 to 2:30 so I'm biased that way I guess.
posted by juv3nal at 3:55 PM on January 16, 2008

Response by poster: Not sure in what realm, sarcastic or not, you intended your comment referring to censorship of the internet to be received, flabdablet. But the issue here is a teenager staying up late at night, not what she's accessing.

Actually, I'm being stupid. The answer to the question as posed by my friend is to tell his daughter to go to bed. If his worry is her staying up late she could just as easily be reading or talking on the phone or watching tv. Strange how the nature of the question itself suggests, upon sufficient contemplation, the answer. Thanks all.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:57 PM on January 16, 2008

Response by poster: And on preview, juv3nal, yep.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:58 PM on January 16, 2008

There isn't enough information here to be definitive, but a "behavioral problem?" Really? She's up late using the Internet, not stealing cars and going for drunken joyrides. Unless her grades are suffering, she's late for school or something else genuinely negative, is this really an problem? She's almost old enough to drive, does she still need her parents giving her a bedtime?

When I was 15, I'd be up reading until 2-ish on occasion. I'm glad my parents never tried to correct that "behavioral problem." I might have been a little tired at school the next day sometimes, but it wasn't the end of the world.

Unless there's some unmentioned evidence that this is actually having negative consequences, why not just trust to her to be responsible with her own time? If grades start to suffer, homework isn't getting done, etc., then it's time for change.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:01 PM on January 16, 2008

Doh, should have previewed, since it sounds like you've found what you're looking for. Sorry =)
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:02 PM on January 16, 2008

One solution to this problem is just to let her stay up. If she's bleary-eyed the next day... well, she's not driving at 15, is she? She'll be fine.

I think that it's less important to control a teenager than it is to maintain a trusting relationship so that when they make bad life decisions (as all teenagers inevitably do) they'll have someone to turn to for help and guidance. I mean, the last thing a parent wants to say is, "Why didn't tell me you're ____?" Right?
posted by reebear at 4:13 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

blue_beetle ftw, but...

Failing that, sounds like a job for nocatauth and usage tokens.
posted by genghis at 4:17 PM on January 16, 2008

Best answer: No sarcasm; comment was totally straight faced.

As you just discovered, the very mention of the word Internet seems to cause parental brains to seize up, lose their grasp of the bleedin' obvious, and fail to apply sufficient contemplation.

Whether the issue is site censorship or access control doesn't really matter. The point is that if parents are unhappy with the way their teenagers are using computers, the correct solution is always the same: supervision, while building a relationship based on openness and trust. If parents are not supervising their teenagers' computer use, there is no technology that will keep the kids "out of trouble". Computers are no different from spray paint, knives or pool chlorine in this respect.

Our sixteen-year-old currently has almost totally unsupervised computer access, because I can and do trust him not to do anything with it that I wouldn't do. That trust has been built up over the years he's had supervised access.
posted by flabdablet at 4:20 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

In the newest version of Airport Utility for the Airport Express, under the Manual setup section there is a "timed access" option where you can set limits of when to allow for internet access on that point. You can even specify which computers can get online when (both time of day and days of the week).
posted by mathowie at 4:43 PM on January 16, 2008

Response by poster: Most interesting, Matt. That's exactly the answer I (we) were looking for initially. Now I'm not so sure.

Ask MeFi is awesome.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:38 PM on January 16, 2008

I have to agree that this isn't really a technical problem. I stayed up to 2am at her age, and we didn't have internet at all, or a computer anywhere but my mum's room. But I had books.
posted by jb at 6:07 PM on January 16, 2008

I would suggest a time budgeting method as said before. A useful method is to create a schedule, i.e. 4:00-5:00 is math, 5:00-6:00 is history, etc. You can change the amount of time per subject depending on the work for that night. If she finishes the assignment early then for the remainder of the period she can do whatever she wants. This way, she is completely done at a certain point, there is a minimal amount of procrastination, and there seems to be more free time when in reality it is just clumped at the end rather than fragmented.
posted by ooklala at 7:00 PM on January 16, 2008

Procrastination is underappreciated.

I'm doing it right now. It's 2pm and I was supposed to turn up at 11am. However, nobody is there at present, I have access, the job is going to take less than two hours, and I just scored another job by being home to answer the phone. Result!
posted by flabdablet at 7:07 PM on January 16, 2008

This article talks a little about somewhat recent research explaining why teenagers tend to stay up late and sleep "in," as well as about some school systems attempting to approach the issue.

She needs to sleep, yes, but it's fair to say that 9 might just be too early for her.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 7:07 PM on January 16, 2008

Is she doing something unsavoury on the net? If not, I think your friend should loosen up and let her daughter (who is one year away from being able to drive and 3 years from being a full adult) decide her own bed time.
posted by sid at 6:55 AM on January 17, 2008

I don't know if you're still reading this, but...

I'm new to this parenting thing, but I've learned a lot from the "Parenting With Love & Logic" book series. Have your friend check your library for a copy (there's even a teen version). Basically, it's a way to parent where you let the child experience the consequences of his/her actions. In your friends' case, it sounds like the consequences for the daughter would be general tiredness during the school day and perhaps a drop in grades. (If she doesn't care about school performance, another consequence is in order -- loss of privileges, for instance.)
posted by parilous at 7:34 AM on January 17, 2008

I didn't see this mentioned here, but doesn't Leopard (if your friend's daughter is running that) include parental controls that let you limit the amount of time a certain account can access the network? Or was that referenced in your question? Either way, thought I'd throw it out there.
posted by phaded at 12:18 AM on January 18, 2008

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