I have a few kids who are literally addicted to internet and an online gaming. This means, there is a struggle in my household to get them to focus on academics during the school week (and weekend); and I have to worry about them bumping into the bevvy of inappropriate, violent and sexually explicit content on the Internet.
In comes Clean Router which is a hardware-based parent control system. That’s what makes it stand out from other software-based firewall, parental control products and subscription services out there.
The device has four Ethernet ports and two USB ports and is based on Wi-Fi so it connects to all the devices in the home and I can impose parental controls on my middle son’s tablet, daughter’s notebook and eldest son’s phone once it is connected to the home wif-fi.
Once you’ve installed Clean Router, an unencrypted Wi-Fi source called CleanRouterWizard comes on the screen. Connect then follow the instructions to configure each device.
Parents then get an option to add specific sites to the blacklist or whitelist, either manually or by using buttons in the product’s reports. When Clean Router blocks a site, it offers the option to bypass that block for a fixed time or permanently.
This is great for me because I am constantly uninstalling gaming sites that miraculously get re-installed if I leave the house for 20 minutes.
An administrator password must be entered to bypass the restriction so no sneaky computer savvy kids can circumvent this. Yes!
In addition to blocking sites that clearly match unwanted categories, Clean Router performs a real-time check on page content. Adjusting the filter level controls the threshold at which real-time filtering kicks in.
You can restrict the time each device is permitted to access the Internet using a simple weekly grid. However, matching the restriction to the device requires that you know the correct MAC address. That may be a bit hard for the average parent. I had to google instructions.
The content filter component blocks access to websites based on 9 different categories.
Because the router blocks the content, kids can’t try to circumvent the content filer. Sweet! Another plus to a hardware-based system. And the reports are easy to understand to see what sites your kids tried to access but was blocked.
You can configure Clean Router to email a report of all activity at the end of each day. The report is in PDF format so you can easily print it out.
The device itself (a review version that I received complimentary) costs $149.99 retail and there is a $29.99 per year subscription fee AFTER the first six months. Software-based services will run you between 69.99 to 99.00 monthly and above, however, over time, Clean Router ends up being less expensive after the cost of the device gets eaten up as time goes along. Also, there is NO limit for devices for Clean router where other services usually have a cap of 10.
In large households and ones where each kid has 2 to 3 devices each, Clean Router’s unlimited option comes out on top once again.
Bottom line: Though it has minor limitations, Clean Router turns out to be a pretty good investment and worthwhile product to overwhelmed and hurried parents who move way slower than the technology the kids rely on in this day and age.
photos: PCMag, Me