Many families share the home network which can be tricky when it comes to controlling your children’s access to the Internet. Many of the Internet service providers are providing great alternatives to the conventional parental control software you see on the market.
Enabling network sharing throughout your household can be convenient. But how do you control your child’s access when the Internet is available 24/7 on your shared network? Many of the parental control software applications that are available on the market are not effective when it comes to controlling Internet access. If your child is tech savvy, usually they can find a way to circumvent the parental control system to access the Internet.
If you are currently subscribing to one of the major Internet Service Providers (ISP) such as Time Warner, AT&T, or Comcast, more ISPs are providing parents with the tools they need to provide better protection for their children against inappropriate content and the potential dangers of the Internet.
Depending upon the Internet service you subscribe to, the process for using parental controls varies. To provide you with an idea of how parental controls work with an Internet Service Provider and IP television service, we will touch on a few of the tools that are available through the major providers.
Popular Parental Control Packages
1. AT&T Smart Controls
When you subscribe to Internet through AT&T, the service provides you with AT&T Smart Controls which is a comprehensive parental control package that allows you to control what your children can access and view online. This includes the content they can access online if you have an Internet-enabled Smart TV. The initial package allows you to set the following configurations:
- Create Multiple Profiles: The Smart Controls package allows you to set a profile for everyone that accesses your home network. Each profile can be configured with a username and password with a variety of tools that allow you to set controls to limit your child’s online activities and usage time.
- Control Access to Services: The configuration settings provide a way to control access to specific services you prefer your child not to use. These are services such as chat and Instant Message, email, social media apps, and other services where your child can come in contact with strangers.
- Account Management Interface: The controls offer an account management interface that allows you to easily manage all settings for the accounts you set up from an administrator console. In this area of the controls, you can setup notifications that allow you to approve access to sites that are requested by your child, view your child’s activities while surfing the Internet, and set up tamper alerts that can be sent to your smartphone. This helps you to stay on top of when someone attempts to alter the account settings. The interface also contains settings that allow you to activate parental controls for up to 10 different accounts for family members or friends in your household.
- Online Timer: The Smart Control software offers a timer that is automated and can be set to limit the amount of time your children spend on the Internet or watching Internet television. The timer integrates with wireless parental controls on your smartphone so you can see everything that is going on from your mobile device, even when you are not in the room.
- AT&T/DirecTV Controls: If you have access to DirecTV through AT&T, you can also control what your children watch on television based on the program descriptions. This feature allows you to block inappropriate programs, bock entire channels, restrict Internet access on the television, set Pay-Per-View spending limits, and limit television viewing times.
AT&T U-verse is an innovative parental control application that places you in charge of what your children can watch on the Internet or on your television. U-verse allows you to control on-demand viewing with online services such as Netflix, as well as who can order videos from online video on demand services.
Television channels that offer inappropriate or violent content can be erased from the guide so it cannot be seen. Plus, you can lock and unlock channels including the services that provide online programming. This includes the ability to select movie ratings, TV program ratings, as well as the lowest rating you want to lock. Children can then use an app that controls their access to content with these ratings.
This brief video will provide you with an idea of how U-verse provides protection from inappropriate content for your children.
Other Internet service providers offer Internet services with parental control via your wireless router and the router’s administration site. We will use Comcast as an example.
3. Parental Controls with Comcast
To restrict access the Internet with Comcast requires you to access the router administration site online. This type of service is not as comprehensive as AT&T Smart Controls but still provides you with some options for controlling what your child can do on the Internet.
Here is how the parental controls work:
First, you must login to the administration site. This is the site that was provided to you when you purchased your router. When you login with your username and password, you should be able to see all of the devices that are connected to your home network.
- Click on the device in which you want to set access permissions. This might be your child’s tablet PC, a household PC, or any other computer that is connected to the network. The device must be powered on in order for it to appear on the administration page.
- Click on Add next to the selected device and then set the days and time frame for which you want to provide limited access. Click on Apply to save the settings.
- Next, select the Web Site Blocking feature to enable limited access to specific websites.
- Enter the URL address such as www.example site.com to block access to that specific website. Continue to enter all of the websites you wish to block access to, as well as keywords that pertain to website topics that may be inappropriate. Click on Add to save the settings.
As you can see there are fewer features in this type of parental control than the ones we discussed in the AT&T service. This means you should research parental control software to discover some of the high quality programs that are available to provide additional protection.
Not all of the parental control software programs are effective, but there are some high quality applications that will help you to provide protection for your children. Additionally, if you have a high quality antivirus program such as Kaspersky or other, these security applications also provide you with access parental controls.
If you own a Smart TV with Comcast Xfinity services, there are parental controls you can access on the Smart TV to control your children’s access to online programming, movies, and TV programs. Here is a brief video on how easy it is to work with the parental control settings on your Smart TV.
4. FiOS Parental Controls
If you are using FiOS TV through Verizon and your television is connected through their high speed Internet service, you can control your child’s access to digital channels, online games, social media services, and more using the parental controls provided in the FiOS TV service.
The parental control settings are located on the user interface for FiOS TV under the Settings menu. The parental controls allow you to control video on demand from services such as Netflix, television programming, and access to apps and widgets. These are areas that have questionable content or may allow your child to come in contact with strangers. The parental controls alos allow you to control access to online purchases.
The Purchases Control tool allows you to setup a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to protect any purchases you have made through your Smart TV. You can configure this option to enter the PIN when using the remote control to password protect access to any content your child may access that is inapproriate or questionable in nature.
In terms of social media, you can block access to widgets such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter by creating a four-digit PIN number. This is accomplished under the Settings menu and by selecting the Parental Controls tool. Once you access Parental Controls, you simply enter a four-digit PIN number and retype it to confirm. Then you click on Enable Parental Controls and the select the On option.
Here is a visual demonstration of how the parental controls work on the FiOS interface.
All of the parental control tools we have discussed in this article are available for free when you subscribe to the service. With Smart TV gaining momentum as a source of home entertainment, the Internet and paid television subscriptions are now combined when you look at it from the content delivery perspective. This means it is no longer necessary for the user to switch devices to access conventional TV channels and Internet television.
At the same time, the move toward an always on service from legacy television services opens up the challenge for parents concerned about protecting their child by controlling what they can do on SmartTV devices. With a traditional TV that is not Internet-enabled, parents can use the included controls to block channels using a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
However, in the case of the Internet there are two options when it comes to parental controls which include allowing all television channels, Internet TV, and widgets to be widely available or block everything. Thankfully, many of the television service providers such as those we mentioned in this article have stepped up to the plate with intuitive parental controls that effectively address the collaboration of both traditional and Internet TV. Additionally, many of the SmartTV manufacturers such as Samsung offer their own brand of parental controls that block access to programs on Internet television networks, gaming sites, social media on demand video services, and more.
The reality is that access both television and the Internet simultaneously is a relatively new innovation. While there are hundreds of parental software applications on the market to protect your child on a computing device, Internet access on the television is a new challenge for parents and one which will require careful consideration on the part of both cable service providers and manufacturers of SmartTVs. Meanwhile, both parties have started to make an effort toward providing ways for parents to protect themselves and their families while enjoying all of the great things the Internet has to offer.