PuberPester or how to sensibly provide internet access for kids

Monday, May 25th, 2015 by hinrich

DrayTek Vigor Router

More and more schools rely on parents to provide their children with internet access. Whether we are talking about websites to check the agenda for the next school day, get to know the scores from the latest exams or to find out whether a lesson will be dropped tomorrow due to the absence of one of the teachers, more and more is done via internet.

Sure, this is only logical as the society is moving towards an internet-enabled system for many aspects of life. Still, parents are left to their own devices on how to deal with this necessity at home. What, if you don't favor the two extremes of either no internet for the kids or completely free access? There are middle grounds like a computer at a table where mom or dad can have an eye on things every now and then. But isn't that a form of policing?

What if you want to deal with the whole situation in a way that tries to balance the necessity for access with certain restrictions while leaving as much as possible liberty for the kids? And don't forget to throw in some extra complexity such as smartphones and tablets - not just Windows desktops or laptops!

A daunting task...

I have taken it on with a compromise: provide a system that gives each kid a time quota. They need to log in and then the clock starts ticking across all devices. I have combined this further with some web site restrictions via OpenDNS. The system works for all devices as the accounts are linked to each kids own device and via account log-in for the shared devices. Furthermore, there are restrictions regarding time of day to ensure that internet is off during the night.

But what if your oldest one comes to tell you that his time is up and he still needs to check something for school?

Here my solution is a separate "school" account. It has unlimited access and only works on white-listed sites (those sites absolutely needed for school). And what when they figure out that it is difficult to deal with https sites? To prevent endless YouTube watching via the school account, there is a data quota of 50 MB per day on that account ("op is op" as they say in Dutch).

Is this the best solution? Probably not. But it is my current attempt to strike a balance between providing the needed access to the internet while restricting it in a way that limits policing...

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