Teens and the Internet; You're in Control

How many times have you threatened your kids "Do that again, and there's no more Internet!"? How many of you can actually do it without shooting yourself in the foot and locking everyone out, including yourself? Many parents have asked me, as a person experienced in technology and Internet "stuff", how do I manage Internet access for my daughters? In the past, this has been a rather complex task involving routers and some specialised internal systems. Definitely, not something your average parent would want to attempt. However, all is not lost! Enter the "Fingbox".

Fingbox

This is a Fingbox - which is actually circular... not a box at all! (Image courtesy of fing.io)

"A fing-what-now?!" you cry? A Fingbox is a clever little gadget about the size of salsa dip jar, plugs into your router and provides real-time insight to what is happening on your network as well as tools to manage who/what has access to where. It is not a "subscription" service and only requires a one-off purchase of the device itself. Once it is installed, the tables are turned! The PARENTS now control their Internet again!

You're not a network engineer though, so how easy is this Fingbox to drive? The simple answer is, if you can install an application on your mobile device, you can drive a Fingbox like a pro. The team at Fing have spent a lot of time developing a pairing of software (the app) and hardware (the Fingbox) which works brilliantly together. The basic process after plugging the Fingbox in is;

  1. Install the app on your phone/tablet
  2. Let the Fingbox discover what is on your network
  3. Create the users of your network (Mum/Dad, Kid 1, Kid 2, etc.)
  4. From the devices discovered in #2, assign them to the users in #3. Or in other words, pair devices (phone, tablets, laptops etc.) to the people who use those devices.

Now that you have users and devices set up, the fun starts!

  • You can restrict Internet access for a person's entire suite of devices or maybe just a single device.
  • You can create an ad-hoc "pause for X minutes" or create a schedule to routinely limit access to the Internet (Homework period, Bedtime, etc.).
  • You can also break out the big stick - block a device/user's access to everything! This is like turning off the wifi or unplugging the cable for that specific person or device only.

The best bit is, if you want to restrict your teens from accessing the Internet, without affecting your ability to use the Internet, you can! Similarly, restricting access to the Internet does not block access to other devices on your network (like printers, or network storage, etc). What if you're not home though? Not a problem! Your Fing app on your mobile device can monitor and control your network at home from anywhere in the world. This is a huge benefit if your teens are occasionally unsupervised at home.

So what doesn't the Fingbox do? Unlike the Disney Circle, the Fingbox doesn't do content filtering such as pornography, gambling, etc. However, for computers, there is Sophos Home which can implement this, and on mobile devices, there are some other solutions to restrict access to undesirable material. The Fingbox doesn't (yet) implement this, but I could see it being added in the future.

The big question, I'm sure you're wondering is whether or not I would use one? The answer is a resounding YES! I have one and have subsequently deprecated my old, manual, system of limiting access. The Fingbox is not as "fine-grained" as my old system but it's easier and provides better insight into what's happening on my network. Installing this device has allowed my wife and I to easily take control of our network and make sure our teens are using their time online efficiently. It also makes it possible to implement immediate consequences for poor behaviour or choices.

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