Hacking Parental Controls: A Parent’s Guide
How kids hack parental controls and how parents can stop them
Parental controls are a tool parents use to make sure their kids don’t see content online that is inappropriate, illegal, or against the values of their home. These controls prevent kids from going to sites that are adult in nature, block search terms, monitor keywords, and the list goes on. Parental controls can be really good because parents can’t sit and monitor what their kids are doing online, especially when they are out of the home.
While parental controls are great, they can be bypassed. In a moment, I’ll share how this can be done. But a quick note, you may think that since I’m going to share these hacks kids will read this article or listen to my podcast and then learn how to do it. Sadly this information is readily available on YouTube, Discord, and Google searches.
Why Do Kids Hack Parental Controls
The struggle over parental controls and smart devices, in general, is not new. When we were kids, we had this same struggle with our parents over what movies to rent at Blockbuster, how long we could talk on the home phone, and how long we could play on Nintendo. So realize up front that this is nothing new, the technology has just changed.
The core of this issue comes from parent-child relationships and how kids test their boundaries. Unfortunately for us today, kids can test those boundaries in the unforgiving never forgetting internet. And this is why we have parental controls to help keep them from making a mistake between their fingers and the keyboard.
"Unfortunately for us today, kids can test those boundaries in the unforgiving never forgetting internet."
Popular Ways Kids Hack Parental Controls
The easiest way for kids to access content that you’ve banned is to access a device that you forget to secure. You may think your only devices are your phone and laptop. But what about the Roku player, your smart speaker, or the old iPad?
Don’t make it easy for kids to access prohibited content by not protecting or securing all of your devices. To fix this, grab up all of your old devices and store them in one secure place, that way they can’t be accessed by anyone but yourself.
Kids Know Our Passcodes
One time my son told me that he knew the passcode to my phone. As parents we unlock our devices all the time and our kids may by habit, watch us do it. If they see us do it enough times, they can memorize the code. So when you input passwords to phones, laptops, and gaming consoles make sure your kids don’t see what you’re doing. If it’s the password for a smart TV, then you might ask them to leave the room while you input the code.
Kids Can Hack Your Wi-Fi Router
Your kids can hack your family router. If you left the password to your router as the default, then all they have to do is pick up the router, look at the little sticker on the bottom, and boom they’re in. Whatever details they need like web login can be found when they Google the router make and model. Then if they choose, they can block YOUR device from accessing the controls. So go change your router password.
Free VPN Warning
Kids can access a free VPN and bypass your parental controls. A VPN will mask your IP address and location making browsing the web more anonymous. There are plenty of good reasons to use a reputable VPN, but they can also be used to work around restricted sites on your family router. There are some sketchy VPN apps that pop up in app stores and social media ads. There are bad for a lot of reasons, never trust a free VPN.
Proxy Server Bypass
Similarly, kids can hide their IP address with a proxy server. These are online sites that route the website request through to an external server. By doing this, they can access a blocked web address anonymously.
And as you may have guessed some of these sites will expose your network to malware and other malicious stuff. Already parental controls do block proxy sites because generally, they’re not good all the way around. So make sure to check your kid's browser history. New proxy sites are coming online every day.
Changing The Clock To Hack Parental Controls
Some parental controls have timers for when kids can access the internet or games. A simple way to bypass this is to change the time on the device. While I have never changed the time on any of my devices, it can be done with some help from Google. Many parental control apps use the device's clock to know when to shut down access, so when they change it, they trick the software.
Secret Burner Phones
One of my favorite shows was Burn Notice and all the time the characters on that show used burner devices. These are phones that were bought at gas stations and home improvement stores, not at Verizon or AT&T. This makes the devices hard to trace because they don’t require a contract to operate.
Teens could use these secret devices to access the full internet using 5G and you won’t know it. They can set up alternate email addresses, and social media accounts, too. To make it even harder to trace, burner phones can be purchased with cash or prepaid credit cards.
Maybe you got your teen a prepaid credit card as a gift but thought they used it up, but those cards can be reloaded. A quick Google search will show where to reload those cards in person with cash.
In this scenario, a prepaid credit card that you gave your kid for travel or as a gift can now be reloaded and function as a hidden credit card. They may choose to buy a burner phone and if they do, this is a big red flag that they are up to something that will land them in a lot of trouble. Keep an eye out for hidden devices in your home and collect any old gift cards and prepaid credit cards when they are done with them.
How Parents Can Prevent Parental Control Hacking
So my fellow protector parents, what are we going to do about this? I’ve had several tech experts on The Secure Dad Podcast, it and I’m thinking specifically about Sarah Kimmel of Family Tech, who said to get your kids on your side.
"Parental controls are not restrictions, they are protections."
Parental controls are not restrictions, they are protections. Tell your kids that’s why your family uses them, to protect not prohibit. Bring your kids in upfront that the internet is a wild, ruthless realm that will track their mistakes.
The parental controls and the rules of your home are set to protect them from things like scams, sextortion, and a host of other horrors. And also set the expectation that if they do hack or bypass your parental controls or household rules there will be swift and lasting consequences. Set the stage to be your family versus the internet. As a family, you’ll get through all of this mess, together.
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Disclaimer: The Secure Dad LLC does not support or promote hacking activities in any form. The content provided in this podcast episode, discussions, article, or any associated materials is intended solely for informational and educational purposes.