A few decades ago, children would gather around a television to watch cartoons or go to the cinema with their parents to see the latest blockbuster movie. With the digital age brought about by the internet and ever-changing technologies such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, modern kids no longer have to wait for their favorite TV shows or movies to air at a specific time.
At the touch of a button on the child’s smartphone or tablet, they can access and watch almost any tv show or movielisten to music, play video games and much more.
Behind all these conveniences, however, lurks danger in the form of cyber-attacks, online bullying and exposure to explicit or disturbing content, which is a problem for any parent.
Fortunately, you can block sites with free parental control software and prevent your kids from encountering websites and apps they shouldn’t have access to† Read on to learn how to do this on your child’s device or your home network.
What is parental control software?
Parental control software can help keep your kids safer on their devices by limiting screen time, blocking unwanted content, and preventing them from using risky sites or apps.
They also help children learn the value of good appliance habits. However, it is important that you let them know why you want to deploy such software on their devices so that they know that you respect their privacy. This way, they won’t be snooping around in their gadgets trying to find ways to bypass the protections you’ve put in place to block sites.
Previously, parental controls were set through a single family computer utility to keep kids safer and more productive. Today, the number of connected devices in the home, from smartphones to tablets, laptops, game consoles and many others, can be overwhelming for parents.
Some parental control tools can work on an unlimited number of devices, but not all of them offer it for free. And if you can’t deploy them to every device in your home, you can opt for a broader network-wide solution such as Open DNS and others. These devices filter content at the router level, so your settings are applied to all devices on the home network.
However, you won’t get granular supervision and control on every device with OpenDNS as you would with a parental control tool.
How to Block Sites with Parental Controls in Windows 10
If your kids have access to a PC, parental controls for Windows 10 allow you to block sites and restrict web access, along with monitoring email exchanges, viewing detailed logs, and chat functionality.
Through the Windows Family Safety area in Windows 10, you can create an account or sign in to an existing account, access any Windows device, and create a child account that you can control and monitor.
Some of the parental controls that come with the feature include activity reports for app or game usage, web searches, browser history and screen time, content restrictions, blocking inappropriate apps and websites, tracking what your kids are buying, and even their location.
Set up and use Windows 10 Parental Controls
Click Home > Settings and select bills†
Select Family and other users in the left pane of the Accounts window.
If your child does not have an account on your computer, click Add a family member†
If the child has an email account, enter it in the email field below, then click Next one† If the child does not have an email account, click the Create an email address for an underlying link and click Next one.
Follow the instructions to create an account for each child. Enter the required information, such as email address, password, country, and date of birth, and click Next. You will receive a confirmation that the account has been created. Click Close to†
Your child will be added to your family members list and the status will show as: Child† You can now use the account as parental controls are enabled, so have them sign into their account to complete the process.
Remark: If your child already has an email account and you entered it in the steps above, you will be prompted to sign in and follow the instructions sent to the invitation email. The account status is Child, Pending, so they need to login to complete the account setup.
Change parental control settings in Windows 10
This step will allow you to check if the parental controls you set up in the above process meet your needs.
Click Start > Settings > AccountsTo elect Family and other people in the left pane and select Manage family settings online†
When prompted, sign in and find your child’s account in the list of family members’ accounts. Click Manage permissions and switch the Activity reporting switch to On/green to activate Screen time limits
Adjust the default settings using the daily timelines and drop-down lists.
Click on the Content Restrictions tab to set restrictions on the sites, apps, games, and media your child can access.
Switch the . in Block inappropriate apps and games and block inappropriate websites settings to block sites you don’t want to access. You can add any websites or apps you want to allow or block and choose the age rating.
Remark: You can block inappropriate sites when using Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer browsers. This works on Windows 10, Android devices with Microsoft Launcher, and Xbox One.
Enable web browser limits
To enable internet usage limits, Click Content Restrictionsscroll down to Web Browsing and enable the Block inappropriate websites settings. If there are specific sites that you always want to block, add their URLs in the Always blocked section.
If there are websites that you have specifically allowed and you want your child to see only those sites, check the always allowed section.
Manage the websites kids can access on Xbox One
If your child uses an Xbox One, you can set up web filtering to control what kinds of websites they can access on the console. To do this, sign in to the console with your account (adult), press the Xbox button to open the guide and select System > Settings > Account > Family†
Choose the child account you want to add web filters to and select web filtering†
Click the drop-down list for more options and select the desired level of web filtering. You can’t add specific websites using web filtering on Xbox One; it can only be added on Windows Family’s always allowed list.
Third Party Parental Control Software
While Windows offers a decent selection of parental controls to block sites, setting it up on your child’s mobile device or game console can be a challenge. However, there are several free or paid parental control software programs that you can use to block websites on those devices. Here are some that provide additional features and flexibility to: keep your kids safe online†
This is a popular parental control software that works with Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Kindle and Nook. It offers a full suite of tools you can use to block unwanted and inappropriate apps or websites and keep kids safe online.
The interface is easy to use, intuitive and lets you manage everything from time limits for apps, games and internet usageto social media monitoring and call and text message tracking on your kids’ devices.
The app has a real-time internet filter that detects and blocks inappropriate sites, even in incognito/private browsing.
A free version is available, but you can only use it on one device, and most of its powerful features, such as location tracking, SMS monitoring, per-app control, social media monitoring, or game blocking are locked behind paywalls. .
This is a free parental control software that automatically tracks program or app usage, web history, keystrokes, and saves screenshots captured on the computer your child is using.
You can install it on a smartphone and it will record all made phone calls, including details like contact name and phone number, and record WhatsApp messages.
The cross-platform app is compatible with Instagram and Discord, which parents may want to check out. The service is constantly being updated with more compatibility options. It also has a voice-activated sound recorder that records audio from online conversations.
A free version is available, although it has limited features and only covers one device. If you want more protection, you can get the paid version, which offers more features including listening to Skype calls and silent monitoring of WhatsApp conversations.
OpenDNS is a free, network-wide solution that runs at the router level and automatically blocks domains marked under out-of-the-box block lists with headlines like pornography, sexuality, and other inappropriate content.
The FamilyShield option blocks domains on your entire home network because it runs on computers, mobile devices, and your router to filter the traffic that goes through it. All you need to do is change the DNS server settings from the control panel and filter every device on your network.
Protect children from the dark web
Before settling for specific parental control software, make sure it’s compatible with all the devices you have in your home and how many devices it can work with.
Most of the apps and programs listed above support the major operating systems and work with multiple devices depending on the device you choose. Some are available for free with basic protection on a limited number of devices, while others offer free and paid versions.
If your child only uses a smartphone, check out our overview of the best mobile parental controls†