Like most modern kids, our children get some screen time each day to watch YouTube videos or play Minecraft or Zelda.
And like most modern parents, Kate and I want to make sure our kids don’t come across anything they shouldn’t — like porn — while they’re on their screens. There are some gnarly things on the net that you really don’t want your eight-year-old to see.
While we’ve laid down some ground rules for screen time that allow us to check in on what our kids are consuming — e.g., you can only watch screens in communal places in the home — it’s impossible to keep an eye on them all the time.
So I’ve tried various internet filters to fill that gap. And by trying various internet filters, I mean I’ve tried pretty much every iteration on the market in order to find the best one.
What I found in all my testing is that the cost of most internet filters is about the same. Look to spend $10-$20 a month for filtering multiple devices.
The most significant difference between filters is in their ease of use. Some of them are just a massive pain in the butt to install and manage, and even when you get them installed, they don’t work correctly.
For example, I gave NetNanny a try, but man, it took me the better part of a day to install the software on my kids’ iPads. And then, after I got it installed, my kids couldn’t connect to the internet because the VPN service NetNanny uses for the filtering was wonky. So I uninstalled it.
I then tried out a service called MobiCip. I had high hopes for it. The price is one of the cheapest on the internet filtering market — $5 a month for 10 devices — and installation was much easier than with NetNanny. It was only after installation that the problems started popping up. Web browsing slowed to a crawl thanks to my kids’ internet browsing going through a VPN. Filtering was a tad too aggressive as well. A few times a week, my son would come to me with his iPad, complaining he couldn’t check ESPN for football scores because MobiCip blocked ESPN for whatever reason that day. And sometimes, browsing on any page wouldn’t work at all.
So I removed MobiCip from our kids’ devices, which, to add insult to injury, was a massive pain in the butt to do.
I tried several more services until I finally stumbled upon two that 1) filter the internet, so my kids don’t see inappropriate stuff, and 2) are super easy to use and don’t disrupt their internet browsing.
The Two Internet Filters That Have Worked for Our Family
RouterLimitsRouterLimits was a game-changer for internet filtering; it’s super easy to set up and doesn’t disrupt browsing. Unlike most internet filtering software that requires you to install it on each device you want protection on, RouterLimits runs on your internet router, allowing you to manage and filter all of the devices connected to your home’s internet.
Installation and set-up took less than 10 minutes; far superior to the hours-long ordeals involved with other filtering software. It’s $10 a month.
Once you’ve got RouterLimits installed on your router, you can use the service’s dashboard to set up how you want to filter each device connected to your network. You can filter by categories like porn, gambling, and drugs. And/or you can exclude specific web pages.
Another nice feature of RouterLimits is that you can set times that your kids can access the internet via their devices, so it allows you to easily manage their screen time.
The one big downside with RouterLimits is that it only works if your kids’ devices are connected to the internet via your home network. If they’re on a smartphone with cellular service, they could bypass RouterLimits filtering by surfing the internet via wireless.
To solve that issue, you could use the service offered by the parent company of RouterLimits — Bark. It’s a filtering service that you install on your child’s device and it monitors and filters even if your child is connected via cell service.
Bark is a really robust filtering service. It has a lot of options to allow you to monitor your child’s communication on their device so that you can get alerted if he or she is talking about being depressed or is being bullied. They’ll even monitor messages in social media apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp.
But Bark is a pain in the butt to install and set up. It took me an hour