How to keep kids' online usage under 2 hrs a day?

Here’s tough one. Today’s modern households have a mixture of different computing form factors and operating systems. There are desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, SBC’s, even watches and TV’s.

In the country where I’m from, kids are getting a smartphone at the age of 10, on average! Concerned parents might try to set up an app to stop the ability to surf, etc, after a certain time limit, but what’s to stop these young hools from switching to a device where the app isn’t installed, or switching from their phone’s wifi connection, to their cellular data plan, once blocked by their family’s LAN’s gateway?

Do you know of any solution (preferably open source) which can round up all of the things, and all of the network interfaces, which these hools can get their hands on?

“hool” is short for hooligan, BTW.

PS: A whiz-bang solution involving wireguard somehow would be really cool.

I think “2 hours a day” isn’t great rule. Instead we should aim to make is kids don’t waste too much of their time, learn useful skills while playing with technology and are safe online.

When I was little, my parents limited my time spend before computer to 1h per day and extended it later. While there were some positives to that, it also backfired.

Firstly, because my time on PC was such a limited resource I was much less likely to spend it on any kind of learning. Also later, when I did have free access to technology I’d spend most of my free time on it, since not doing so would feel like wasting precious PC-time.

Nowadays Internet is needed for almost everything. Internet is television. Internet is reading. Internet is learning. You can’t keep in touch with friends without it.
When you do limit time time spend online, make sure it applies to negative or more lazy aspects of the net.

Oh, and nowodays, during coronavirus outbreak it’s probably better for kids to stay inside as much as possible, which also limits what they can do without internet.

Well, that’s my take anyway.

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I asked a fellow Linux geek with 2 kids, aged 13 and 15, what he does:

“I cut it off [internet access altogether] at night. Have filter based on mac address. They spend too much time though. They both like video games and also watch a lot of YouTube. Try to talk to them about not watching bad things. They have phones but no data plan. They have wifi at school though”

I believe a pfsense router would allow you to restrict usage for specific devices on the network. For a non-tech way you can just keep track of the time and if the limit is broken then punish them in the appropriate manner.

I setup a neighbor with a free Meraki account. It get them 20 licenses that can be used on IOS, Android, Mac or PC. Then setup policies that the net can only be accessed between 7am-8pm weekdays and from 7am-9pm weekends.

I’m not familiar with Meraki. Does one need to buy some sort of inexpensive Cisco home routing appliance first, then Meraki runs there? Or it’s a centrally managed cloud service? How would you suggest one look deeper into this who is a noob?

Many routers now have a system it identifies all device connected via MAC address. You can actually set up access times to all devices with those MAC address you want to limit the times to.

It seems that it’s a good idea to not let kids have a SIM card, then they won’t have a way around the policy at the home LAN gateway appliance. But then they can always go to friends’ houses, or maybe there’s wifi at school, so they get more access then.

I guess I was hoping for some clever way to enforce, even in a soft sort of reminder way, somehow at the home LAN gateway (so it doesn’t matter which device the kid switches to), but then the enforcement gracefully also happens on the kid’s phone, covering all cases where he has more than one network interface (in the case of a SIM card), or can also move to a different, more permissive wifi hotspot.

We discussed this topic on DL162. I don’t have kids so I dont have any experience with this topic but Noah, Ryan and Stuart had a lot of great things to say on this topic.

Here is the video and I put it to the timestamp of when that conversation started.

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My 2 boys are 25 & 22 today. But I would probably use the same system today as I used then. The rules were if the sun was up and it wasn’t raining and the temp outside was 44-94 degrees, there was no TV, video games or computers. They didn’t have to play outside but it was strongly encouraged. I also didn’t care if they spent all day on a screen if it was a rainy day. I used a squid proxy server with a whitelist, they had to ask for permission to use a new website. A friend of mine had the same setup until he found out his kid were just jumping on the neighbors wifi, so he put domain policy control on his kids device so it wouldn’t matter what network what they were on it would use the domain proxy. I didn’t have neighbors, so I didn’t go that far. I did keep logs and the kids knew I could see where they were going. I only had to search through them a few times when I felt they were acting suspicious.
Bottom line know your kids and talk to them about safe internet usage. Tell them about malware, not clicking on random links, don’t give scammers or anyone online any personal information and be careful what you go searching for because somethings can never be unseen.

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