In 2020 everything changed with the way we work.
One of the biggest, unexpected, challenges of 2020 is without doubt working from home.
From massive increases in video conferences solutions like Zoom and Skype (why are we all Zooming and not skyping anymore?) to the prospect of Term 2 of schools being done at home, this has been a year of unexpected surprises.
If Term 2 for school is indeed to be done from home – firstly, OMG. Secondly, you’re going to want to lock down your shared or kids devices to ensure they’re not going to places you’d rather they didn’t. In this article I’ll teach you how to use both free and paid-for tools to boost your home internet security and make your home network (and kids computers) to be as secure and manageable as a corporate network.
And yeah yeah, they’ll say talk to your kids about online safety. Most kids will actually do the right thing, but as soon as they get caught in a YouTube rabbit hole they’ll be soon looking at videos very different to where they started.
Further to this, kids are being left unsupervised whilst parents are busily working trying to save their businesses and jobs. Without some level of protection, these kids are left quite open and vulnerable.
Home Internet Security has never been so vital to get right.
The best home internet security is achievable for anyone
Why is home internet security important?
Will this work on a Mac?
The only step that won’t work for Macs is step 5 – Windows Family. Apple may have an equivalent available for their environment but it’s untested by us at this point in time. Otherwise the rest of this article will all work.
Most schools, especially primary schools, only have Windows-based environments. Windows computers are also more readily available so this article is appealing to the masses.
Overview: Home Internet Security made easy
You’ll be setting up the following for your kids
- An email account
- A password manager
- A Microsoft Family account
Security comes first
All parents want their kids to turn out to be good citizens, so we need to make sure they become good online citizens as well.
Fundamental to this is giving your child the knowledge and tools to best protect themselves whilst online, and that all starts with online security.
Understanding the need for unique passwords across all online accounts is a key component of Cybersecurity. That’s why we’re going to be introducing a Password Manager to kids from the very outset. This will enable kids to only have to remember ONE awesome password and then have a simple tool to generate complex and random passwords.
1. Setting up an email address.
It doesn’t really matter which email provider you choose. Gmail, Hotmail (owned by Microsoft_… whichever you like is fine for this exercise. I used a mix of Gmail and Hotmail accounts for this exercise.
Gmail sign up – https://accounts.google.com/signup
Hotmail sign up – https://signup.live.com/
Children under 13
Note that each provider will have a minimum age listed of 13.
* It has been noted that many schools provide links considered “inappropriate” for children under 13 – such as links to YouTube videos. This results in children being unable to access these as they can only access restricted versions of YouTube.
If your child doesn’t have an email account already there are certain terms and conditions you can read up on about creating an email account for kids younger than 13.
The basics steps are still create the account with the child’s correct birth date – you will then be prompted to enter your email account which will then verify guardianship.
Gmail will try to get you to sign up for the Family Link product, which isn’t being considered for this article so you can ignore.
In the case of Gmail, signing up a child under your account gives you these features:
- Update your child’s account info & some settings
Such as their name and birthday.
- Delete their account
You can recover their account for a limited period of time after you delete it.
- Manage their activity controls
You can manage settings such as how Google collects your child’s Web & App Activity.
Important to setup a recovery email/phone numbers
During the setup phase of your kids email account (or here if you forgot to do it) you can set a recovery email address and/or phone number. Make these your email address and phone number. This is really important because if your child forgets their email account password, you’ll be able to help them reset it.
2. Setting up Lastpass Family edition.
A unique password per online account is critical to reducing the cyber risk for your child. So if you’re just starting off with your kids online journey, NOW is the right time to start.
Lastpass is a great online tool that has everything from free accounts to paid-for Enterprise Accounts. You can install it into your web browser and your mobile phone so that your passwords are secured across all of your devices.
The choice is yours for your kids – you could get them each a free account, which are independent of you. You’ll need to create each one individually and you can’t centrally manage their account for them. There are some benefits of having a shared/joint account such as cross-sharing entertainment credentials (for Netflix, Disney etc.).
Free account vs. Paid for
If you opt for the free account, don’t forget your email account is the recovery email for their email account… So if your child forgets their Lastpass password, they can have a recovery email sent to their email account. If they also forget their email account password, they can have their reset options sent to their recovery email account – which is yours! (So don’t forget YOUR email password!)
Lastpass has a Family Account https://www.lastpass.com/family-password-manager that is purpose built for exactly this type of sharing.
There’s no right or wrong with Lastpass so just choose the plan you’re more comfortable. Make sure you do the sign up with your child’s email address as it will be assigned to them, not you.
3. Setting up Clean Browsing.
The easiest way to setup a content filter for your kids is to either have a business grade firewall with content filtering built in, however not many people want to drop $5000 on a firewall for home.
For the rest of us, CleanBrowsing.org is simply incredible.
The free edition has three basic categories that are really easy to setup (and for older kids, relatively straight-forward to bypass if they have the know-how).
Security Filter Malicious domains blocked (phishing, malware).
Adult Filter Adult domains blocked; Search Engines set to safe mode; +Security Filter
Family Filter Proxies, VPNs & Mixed Adult Content blocked; Youtube to safe mode; +Adult Filter
The free editions are set and forget. You can check out the how-to-guide to set it all up.
The paid-for edition is where you’ll get a lot more granular control over what your kids can and can’t get access to.
The setup needs to be done in two phases.
Phase 1 – setup the settings you’d like on whichever computer you’d like. You can create different profiles depending on your child then you can actually install it.
Phase 2 – needs to be done once you first log on to your child’s computer as yourself, the administrator. See Step 5 “Setting up Windows Family” below for that phase.
Installation options – you can either setup the system manually via DNS or use the Windows App. I recommend using the Windows app. Apps are available for all other platforms too Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Windows, Android.
Here’s the guide to get to know the Dashboard.
The below screenshots show some of the many configurable elements that you can choose to allow or block.
4. Setting up Antivirus and Anti-malware.
This is pretty simple.
You need antivirus software – choose Webroot. $6.25/month for 5 devices
You need anti-malware software – choose Malwarebytes. $7.33/month for 3 devices
The paid-for options are absolutely necessary and you’ll be creating more issues than it’s worth by going with their free offerings.
Don’t muck around with this one. Please.
5. Setting up Windows Family.
Ok, by this stage you will have the following all sorted out…
- An email account with a strong, memorable passwords.
- A Lastpass account with a different, strong and memorable password.
- A cleanbrowsing.org account ready to go and setup on your kid’s computer.
- Antivirus and anti-malware installed on your kid’s computer.
Now we need to setup a family group within Microsoft.
There’s quite a few steps here and the less tech-savvy can easily get themselves a bit lost. So below I’ve outlined the broad steps you need to take in order to make this work.
- Create a family group here – https://account.microsoft.com/family/
- You will be an organiser. Feel free to add any other adults you’d like as organisers
- Your kids will be members
- Invite your kids to be members
- You’ll need to log into their emails to accept membership
- This will take you through a Windows Family sign-up process where you’ll need a Microsoft account. Use your child’s newly created email address but use a DIFFERENT password for this account to that of their email accountIMPORTANT STEP
- Log onto their computers with YOUR (i.e. the organiser) Windows family account (don’t log on as the child just yet)
- Go to Windows Menu -> Add, edit or remove other users ->Add a family member -> enter your Adult/Organiser Windows Family email and password (follow the prompts)
- Click on your Account name and Allow access to logon. Also make your account an Administrator
- Now add your kid’s accounts making them Standard users.
- Your account will show as an “Adult” and your child’s will show as “Child”
- CleanBrowsing app installation
- If you didn’t setup profiles in the previous step, now is the time to do it.
- Here’s links to all of the CleanBrowsing apps you’ll need for each platform Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Windows, Android.
- For Windows configurations, make sure you install the Windows app whilst logged on as yourself under an Adult account.
- Log onto their computers using their email address and their new windows password
- You may need help to switch their computer from a local account to a Windows Account.
If everything is setup right, your “adult” account will be an administrator account and the “child” accounts will be standard users – meaning they can’t install applications.
The simplest way to install apps they might need (such as Zoom or Google Chrome) is to logon as the Child, download the app you’re after and save the file (to the desktop or wherever you want).
Find the file -> Right Click -> Run as Administrator -> you will be prompted to install the application under your account.
You can now start editing the settings for each of your kids accounts.
Here’s some screenshots of the types of items you can edit for your kids – head on back to https://account.microsoft.com/family/
Here’s a look at the impact of setting restrictions on apps and time.
You’ll receive emails if a child wants to access a currently blocked app or if they want a time extension – you can also approve their additional access from the portal https://account.microsoft.com/family/
Managing their screen time.
The most commonly asked question I get it “Can I have more screen time”.
It normally happens whilst they’re on a video call with a friend – I’ve saved the Microsoft family link as an icon on my phone, so I just click the icon and I get access to the portal. The link you’ll use is https://account.microsoft.com/family/?fref=coldstartv2&refd=login.live.com – you can have your mobile phone browser remember your logon credentials.
Summary: easily boosting your home internet security
If everything has gone to plan you’ll be pretty pleased with yourself right now.
Your kids will have their computers all setup ready for Term 2 when it commences and you’ll have some peace of mind knowing that they have much less chance of getting their computers infected with a virus. You’ll also be happy to know that their chances of straying from the path has been drastically reduced. As your kids mature you can start to loosen the restrictions you have in place to allow different apps and technologies.
At least the choice and power is in your hands as parents, rather just open slather.
Good luck and happy learning!
Trusted online resources for kids
If you’re like me, knowing what you can and can’t trust on the internet can be rather daunting. However you’ve just learnt that boosting your home internet security is relatively straight forward!
Whilst this list is by no means exhaustive, here’s a list of sites that I trust my kids to go on that have some level of skill-building (not necessarily purely educational).
https://code.org/ – Learn to code
https://www.canva.com/ – Learn graphic design
https://readingeggs.com.au/ – A great resource for younger kids
https://www.abc.net.au/btn/ – Behind the news is the news simplified a little bit for kids
https://www.natgeokids.com/au/ – National Geographic for kids
https://time.com/tfk-free/ – Time for kids
As mentioned in this article, not all of these resources will be free but as with anything good people need money to create great content.