4 easy (and free!) things you can do to keep your kids safer online

Keeping your kids safe online doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Here are four easy and FREE things you can do to protect your family.

 

1. Kick all electronic devices out of bedrooms

If your kids are using the computer behind closed doors, it’s hard to know where they go and what they do online. The illusion of privacy also can entice your kids into believing online misbehavior won’t have consequences. For both these reasons, the vast majority of family internet safety experts advise parents to keep all computers and mobile devices in common areas of the house.

 

2. Check the browser history often

While this isn’t a silver bullet (kids can easily alter the browser history or use an incognito browser), it’s an important first step to keeping your kids safe online. Glancing through the websites visited on each computer, tablet, or smartphone will give you a basic idea of your kids’ browsing patterns. Keep an eye out for gaps in the history (like if you know your kid was on the computer  from 3pm to 5pm, but nothing is listed between 4:15pm and 4:30pm), late night or early morning browsing, or anything that seems odd or out of character for your kids. Furthermore, let your kids know you periodically check the browsing history. This will give you opportunities to talk to them about internet safety and give them added incentive to follow your family’s media rules.

 

3. Give the internet an early bedtime

Even if all electronic devices stay in the living room or kitchen, the busiest areas of your house are deserted at night. Use the parental controls on your kids’ devices to shut the internet down at a certain time, or simply turn off the router when you go to bed.

Bonus– your kids will sleep better, since the blue light from their devices won’t suppress the melatonin in their brains.

 

4. Password-protect all your devices

All computers and mobile devices come with the option to sign in with a password, and this barrier to entry can prevent everything from your baby changing your phone’s language to Arabic, your toddler finding disturbing videos on YouTube, to your tween surfing the web before she’s finished her chores. Then, if the kids are home alone, no one can be online!

Possible exception: If you’re one of the many families who do not have a landline phone, you may want to consider keeping one phone unlocked so your kids can call for help in case of an emergency.

 

If you liked these tips, check out our family internet safety live event here!

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Has your browser history been deleted?

So– you think your browser history has been deleted. You’re not sure what was deleted, or even IF anything was deleted. Unfortunately, the only way to see if your browser history has been deleted is to recover the full history and compare.

We all know that nothing on the internet is ever truly gone. However, the point of deleting something is to make it disappear for good… or at least to make it very, very hard to find. So, the best way to protect your family online is to move forward, not backwards. Tighten the parental controls. Put wifi capable devices in public places. Have frank conversations with your children about using technology responsibly.

Having said that, this is the best way to try to recover deleted browser history.

 

Windows: System Restore

System restore will take your computer back to an earlier date. This will affect your computer’s system files, BUT NOT YOUR COMPUTER’S DATA FILES (meaning that it is not a way to recover pictures/documents/videos saved on your computer).

(Note: The system restore instructions are paraphrased from wikihow.com)

1) Search for “system restore” in your Start menu

2) Follow the options and select the date to which you want your computer to revert.

3) You should be able to read your browsing history as it was on that date.

 

Mac: Time machine

(Note: The Time Machine instructions are taken from maciverse.com)

On a Mac, you have to enable the Time Machine program and select a back up place to recover your browser history. If you have already done so, you will be able to recover Safari and Firefox browser history on a Mac. Unfortunately, users have had mixed results using any process to recover Chrome browser history.

1) Close Safari/Chrome/Firefox and open Finder

2) Select your user account under Places

3) Open the library folder, then the Safari/Chrome/Firefox folder

4) Open Time Machine and select the date you would like to restore your browser history from

5) Select the history.plist folder and hit Restore

6) When asked if you want to proceed, click Replace

7) You should now be able to open Safari/Chrome/Firefox and view your restored history.

 

Obviously, monitoring browser history is NOT a foolproof way to keep tabs on your kids’ online activities. Make sure your family knows your internet values and house rules. Encourage constant dialogue about internet safety and content. This area is not so different than any other area of parenting; communication and a strong relationship are key. It may seem daunting, but you CAN instill positive media values and internet street smarts in your children.

 

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internet safety for kids

3 things your kids need to know to be safe online

 

Remember when surfing the internet meant tying up your phone line?

Your kids probably don’t! This generation is more tech savvy than any previous generation, and some of these kids begin their internet experience even before they begin school. Here are three things they need to know about to be safe online.

 

1. Pornography

Make sure your child is educated about pornography: what it is, how it will harm them, and how it harms others. Online pornography is pervasive; it is almost certain that your child will be exposed to it. Does he or she know what to do when this happens? Come up with a strategy such as turning off or covering up the monitor and immediately finding a trusted adult. Teach your kids internet accountability, that they are responsible for what they view online.

We post articles frequently on our Clean Router Facebook page about pornography’s effects on individuals and society. These articles are a great resource for talking to your children about pornography.

 

2. Scams

A flashing banner inviting your child to click to claim a brand new iPad can be very tempting if he doesn’t know any better. Teach your children to avoid ads and to recognize illegitimate websites.

One popular scam is fake customer service numbers. Make sure your children know to never dial a customer service number unless it comes from the actual company’s website!

 

3. Privacy

It’s easy to forget that social media is a public forum. Remind your kids that if they wouldn’t put it on a billboard, they shouldn’t post it online or send it in a message. This includes messages that are supposed to disappear or be deleted and even “private” online storage. Several celebrities recently learned the hard way that nothing digital is perfectly secure. Teach your children how to adjust their privacy settings on social media but not to take that privacy for granted.

Giving your child online street smarts is just as important as reminding him to wear a bike helmet or talk to strangers appropriately.

 

Check out our other posts on helping your kids be safe online!

 

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pexels-photo-278312.jpeg

Teens are spending more time on screens and enjoying life less

It may seem like today’s teens only enjoy screen-related activities, but researchers say the excessive screen time is keeping them from enjoying much of anything.

 

Researchers from the University of Southern California wanted to understand a previously documented correlation between teens’ screen time and substance use. They believed that anhedonia, the reduced ability to experience pleasure or enjoy previously favored activities, may explain why teens who spend more time on their screens are more likely to use controlled substances. Anhedonia is a common symptom of depression, and other research had pointed to a relationship between screen time and decreased mental health.

 

The study surveyed over a thousand fourth graders four times over the course of three years about their screen time and anhedonia. As the researchers had thought, the teens who spent more time on their screens were more likely to experience anhedonia. The teens who experienced anhedonia were also more likely to engage in substance use, thus confirming the theory that anhedonia was a factor in the correlation between screen time and substance use.

 

It’s a phenomenon we have all experienced, on a small scale at least. After finishing an episode of a tv show, the most attractive activity is another episode. After a morning of binge-watching Netflix, it’s hard to feel motivated to get up and go for a hike. The more we invest in social media, the more reality feels dull and colorless in comparison. We’ve all seen children often wander in circles after Mom turns off the tv. Real life is slower, understated, and less flashy than life plugged in.

 

When we understand better how our brains work, and how stimuli affect our brains, it allows us to go through life aware and equipped to take control. We can second-guess our lack of desire to unplug and remind ourselves of the joys of in-person interaction, the outdoors, physical exercise, and more. Mindfulness helps us see through the brain fog and remind ourselves who we really want to be.

 

You can read the study here.

 

Ready to help your family unplug?

 

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Apple Bans Parental Control Apps. Here’s what you need to know!

Apple has recently banned some of the most popular parental control apps from the App Store. (Update: Apple retracted the anti-MDM policy on June 4, 2019.) The remaining apps in the store have removed the ability to provide effective parental controls. We created CleanRouter because we believed parents should have control over the amount of screen time and content on their children’s devices. We still do.

 

What can you do to protect your family? Our Child App for Android and iOS are distributed via our internal infrastructure and NOT through Apple’s App Store. Our Child App has the following features:

  • Enable or disable specific apps
  • Enable time restrictions
  • Turn the device’s internet off and on
  • CleanBrowser, which replaces Safari, Chrome, etc., to provide safe browsing on your Clean Router network or a 4G connection

 

How do you get started? Our Child App is included in the mobile subscription, so Clean Router users on this plan can contact support to get started! Email us at support@cleanrouter.com,  call 520-445-4673 during our regular service hours of 7am-7pm MST (Arizona time) weekdays, 10am-4pm Saturday, or use the live chat feature on our website, CleanRouter.com! Families with the basic subscription, now is a great time to upgrade! Contact us today using any of the methods above!

 

If you have been following the controversy surrounding this story, you may have read about a technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM. After meeting all of Apple’s requirements, including applying for several licenses, we have implemented the use of MDM in our Child App. It’s the only way to give parents the ability to see what apps are on their kids’ devices and allow or block those apps. For reasons Apple has not disclosed, the use of MDM is permitted on Apple devices, but the distribution of apps using MDM through the App store is now prohibited. Other articles have pointed out how this decision coincides with the release of Apple’s new parental controls feature, Screen Time. We will not comment on Apple’s possible motives.

 

Of course, families should guard their online privacy closely and choose their parental controls software with great care. Clean Router only gathers and uses the necessary data for the Child App to function properly. We also do not share or sell data to third parties. We have followed and will continue to follow the policies put in place by both Apple and Google. If you ever have any questions or concerns about your Clean Router, please contact us using any of the methods listed above.

 

Clean Router remains dedicated to providing families with online peace of mind.

 

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Learn tips to keep your kids safe online

 

Widespread Malware Campaign Hacks Over 100,000 Routers

It’s a not-so-happy Halloween for over 100,000 families this year.

 

A new malware campaign dubbed “GhostDNS” has hacked over 100,000 home routers in an attempt to steal passwords and other login information, particularly targeting online banking information. The Hacker News breaks down the technical details of GhostDNS here. This attack comes only a few years after the infamous DNSChanger, a similar malware system which infected millions of computers in 2012 and again in 2016.

 

We’re happy to report that Clean Routers were NOT affected by this attack. Our robust security system and constant monitoring (made possible by our monthly subscription model) allow our team to keep up with the latest malware threats. We update the Clean Routers regularly to guard against the newest online hazards and keep our ear to the ground for signs of a cyber attack.

 

TLDR? If you have a Clean Router, we have your back! If you don’t, now is the perfect time to order. Let’s make this Halloween all treats, no tricks!

 

Ready to protect your home, business, library, or church with Clean Router?

 

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Three reasons to turn off your smartphone today

Did you know the average person spends almost 3 hours a day on their smartphone? That’s about 20 hours a week– the equivalent of a part time job! Here are three reasons to take a well-deserved vacation from your smartphone.

 

1.Your brain needs quiet

A growing body of research shows that downtime is essential for optimal brain function. Scientists believe a certain kind of brain activity, sharp-wave ripples, help us store and consolidate memories. These ripples can only occur when our brain is resting but awake. Unfortunately, we’re prone to pull out our phones at just that kind of time– when we wake up in the morning, on public transportation, waiting in line, before we go to sleep at night. If you’ve been feeling forgetful lately, keep your phone in your pocket next time you have a quiet moment and just be still.

 

 

2. A better night’s sleep

The blue light emitted by tablets, televisions, computers, and yes, smartphones, hinders our brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps us fall asleep. Even if you fall asleep without difficulty, you may still want to read a book before bed. This study found that people who were on their phones at bedtime needed more time to fall asleep, spent a lower percentage of their time in bed actually asleep, and slept worse overall.

 

 

3. Improved relationships

Relationships obviously improve when people are calmer, better rested, and have better memories, but research shows relationships are helped in other ways as well when the phones are turned off. There’s a whole new line of research on “technoference” and its impact on relationships. Parents say their co-parenting improves when their phones are put away– they notice each other’s signals and work together more seamlessly.  Researchers have noticed that toddlers disintegrate when mom and dad check their phones and perk back up when devices are turned off. Women report more feelings of depression, lower life satisfaction, and lower relationship satisfaction when technology is allowed to interrupt couple time. Overall, pretty much every relationship in your family and social circle gets a boost when your phone takes a back seat.

 

Clean Router knows every smartphone (and family) needs some downtime.

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Police, Safety Experts Warn Against New SnapMaps

A new SnapChat feature could allow predators to see where your teen lives, where he goes to school, or her favorite hang outs. SnapMaps uses the GPS signal on smart phones to pinpoint users’ locations and identifies their location on a map. This map is visible to all the user’s friends and followers. Furthermore, users’ locations are updated each time the app is opened– not just when they share stories or send Snaps.

 

You might not mind a close friend knowing your teen’s location. Unfortunately, though, due to the prestige of having high numbers of social media followers, more and more teens are adding people they’ve never met in person. These virtual “friends” may not be who they say they are and could use SnapMaps to track your teen. The SnapMap locator is highly accurate, and can even identify which building the user is in.

 

The police in Muskegon Heights, Michagon, spoke to the local news about the new SnapChat feature. “We want young people, adults as well as underage people to be careful telling people where you are, especially when you’re going to be alone or in an isolated place.” You can read the whole news story here.

 

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection recommends parents remind teens of the dangers of sharing one’s location online as well as allowing people they don’t know off-line access to their social media profiles. Their comments, featured in Canadian news site thestar.com are available here.

 

As social media grows, online street smarts are more important than ever! When evaluating social media platforms, parents should carefully research the features of each app. What seems like an innocent feature can have horrifying implications!

 

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What We Can Learn About Kids and Screens from Tech Moguls

In a recent interview with online magazine Mirror, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, outlined his family’s screen time rules. No phones for the kids until age fourteen, no screens at the dinner table, and an evening curfew for the internet.

 

Gates’ three daughters are 20, 17, and 14 years old now, so presumably the rules are mostly applicable to the two younger girls, but his strict stance reflects favorably compared to today’s norm. According to a 2016 report, the average age for receiving one’s first phone is now ten years old.

 

Let that sink in for a minute– the AVERAGE age at which kids are receiving their first phone is TEN. That means a significant number of kids are younger than ten years old and own a phone.

 

With 21st century childhood becoming increasingly technologically saturated, Bill Gates’ parenting rules stand out. He’s not unique among tech moguls, though. Steve Jobs, Chris Anderson (chief executive of 3D Robotics), and Evan Williams (founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium) have all been reported to have strict screen time rules for their kids. So, what do they know that the average American parent doesn’t? Aside from advanced computer science, that is.

 

Chris Anderson told The New York Times, “We have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”

 

As our society increasingly adds screen time to the “can’t miss” list for childhood, maybe we should listen to these tech experts and follow their parenting lead.

block all porn sites

Feature Friday: Why you should use Clean Router instead of Circle

“I have heard about this Circle thing.  How is Clean Router better?”

 

If you have been researching online filtering options, you may have heard or read a bit about Circle, another online parental controls system. However, after trying Circle ourselves, we believe Clean Router can offer a superior filtering experience to Circle. In spite of a few similarities, Clean Router significantly differs from Circle in ways that will impact your family’s online peace of mind.

 

1) Circle’s complicated installation- Setting up Clean Router is as easy as plugging in a router, and our friendly support team walks every new customer through it. Installing Circle, though, was a multi-step process involving app downloads and connecting through multiple networks. For busy parents or grandparents, especially those not confident in their tech skills, Clean Router is faster and easier.

 

2) Circle’s fundamental design is flawed – Unlike Clean Router, Circle is not a router. Users plug into Circle into the network, and it uses something called ARP-spoofing or ARP-poisoning.  Simply put, it tricks everything in the network to talk to Circle instead of your wireless router.

Circle_network

So what? The additional device adds an extra “hop” for all of your network traffic.   Circle causes quite a bit of extra latency to all of your web traffic, slowing down the whole network.  Circle also uses an old wireless protocol (802.11n), which also hurts your internet speed.

Speed aside, this ARP-poisoning also causes other problems.  Many devices are incompatible, and we have even heard users report that Circle broke their entire network!

 

3) No filter – Unlike Clean Router, which checks every website in real time, Circle does not filter online content.  Users can block certain categories of apps and create lists of approved and blocked websites, but we all know that the internet changes daily.  Clean Router’s IntelliFilter checks every packet that is coming thru from the DNS layer all the way down to the very content itself. We also were disappointed in Circle’s “blocked” page. No reason is given for blocking a website, and the page itself scrolls through Disney content and links to Instagram and Twitter. Parents can imagine how distracting this would be for a kid trying to concentrate on homework, and some of the content presented on the blocked page, while not pornographic, was not quite kid-friendly.

 

4) No dynamic filtering – While Circle asks you to label a website as good or bad, Clean Router understands the internet just does not work that way. What do you do with a site like FoxNews or MSN? Not all the content may measure up to your family’s media standards, blocking an entire news platform would inhibit your online experience.   This is exactly why dynamic filtering is so important. To ensure your family’s online safety, Clean Router checks every word and every picture of every website accessed on your internet network in real time. 

 

5) No support – Need help configuring your filtering or figuring out what URL needs to be white-listed to get a particular site to work?  Have a question about this feature or that feature?  Good luck getting in touch with Circle! The website doesn’t list a support phone number, a email address, a chat option, or any other contact method.  Clean Router provides award-winning US-based support.  Skeptical? Give our guys a call at 520-445-4673, shoot us an email at Support@CleanRouter.com, or go to our website and chat with us live. We won’t be shy about besting Circle in this area!

 

6) iOS- and Android-only controls – The only mechanism that Circle provides for controlling your kids’ devices or managing your network is through an iOS or Android app.  Need to access from a computer?  No luck. On the other hand, Clean Router allows you to access your account from any computer or mobile device!

 

7) No emailed reports – Clean Router delivers a PDF report to your email nightly informing you of each device’s internet activity.  And, we just rolled out our full Smart Reporting v2 that allows you even more control over these reports! This is not a feature offered by Circle.

 

8) Limited scheduling options- Circle only offers three scheduling options for devices: “BedTime” (a time for the internet to turn off for the evening), “Time Limits” (a limit on how much time each device can spend online per day), and “Pause” (turn the internet off temporarily). Clean Router’s scheduling feature allows users to set a schedule for each device in their home for any time of day and any day of the week! For example, if dinner time is always from 6pm to 7pm, you can automatically set the internet to turn off at 6pm every day. If you would like to offer more screen time on Saturdays than Tuesdays, Clean Router (but not Circle) lets you set a different schedule for each day of the week!

 

8) Keywords – Tired of your kid going to every Minecraft site?  Enter “minecraft” into the keywords list, and Clean Router will block any site containing those words.  For Circle users, respite from Minecraft requires hunting for hundreds of different domains and websites.

 

9) No YouTube filtering– With Circle, you’ll have to allow YouTube in all its sleazy glory or block it completely. CleanYouTube, our YouTube filtering service, offers your family the best of YouTube!

 

10) The bypass option– If you hit a page and need to bypass Circle, you’ll need to..

*Sign into the controls on Circle on your phone (since it doesn’t have any web controls)

*Add the website to an approved list

*Wait approximately 60 to 120 minutes (yes, 1 to 2 hours) for the page’s cache to clear

*Go back to your site.  

And then, you have to remember to go and turn it back off!  

Our bypass option made to be used– simple, fast, and secure.

For example, Victoria’s Secret is a popular resource for women’s clothing and cosmetics, but you may not want your twelve year old lingering over the sexy photos. When my wife needs to go to there, this is what she sees:

packet filtering router

My wife can enter the password, choose 15, 30, or 60 minutes, and hit the Temporary Bypass page.  Clean Router will unblock the site for the amount of time designated. She can do her shopping and leave without having to worry about remembering to re-block the website.  In the time Circle users need to unblock a site, my wife can finish shopping, give herself a pedicure, AND go for a run!

11) Circle is “by Disney” – Circle has a content partnership with Disney.  For users, this means Disney ads a-plenty and product-pushing galore. With such a direct funnel, be prepared for your kids to enter a whole new world of advertisements for the latest Disney gadgets and gizmos.  After you have bought 15 copies of Frozen, and your kids have bought 20 episodes of “Hannah Montana” you might feel a little less hakuna matata. When you’re ready, Clean Router can help you let it go.

 

The Clean Router is truly the ultimate parental control, and we continue to work hard to make sure that your kids are safe online.  We have taken industrial-level filtering, and scaled it down to something easy for parents to use.  If you need any help, our award-winning support team is here to help you achieve online peace of mind. Come partner with us to block all online pornography from your home and take back control of the internet today!

 

 

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