Is your child going to bed with their iPhone and/or iPad and texting/chatting with friends when they should be sleeping? Are they just on the device too much during the day, and just won’t put down the device to do something else? Did you know you can use your Mac (and perhaps your PC) to control the times Wifi is allowed to connect to the device, day and night.
The problem hit home for me when my child kept up another child who’s grades suddenly dropped. She mentioned to me that he was having a hard time at school and was always tired. Well of course. So despite my efforts to make her understand that texting in the middle of the night might hurt her and others, I was put in a position of having to take direct action and control of the situation which had quickly got out of hand.
With the following simple step-by-step instructions, one can set time limits on a daily basis as to when all your devices can connect to the internet, thus making time for other activities, like running, jumping, laughing and family time. You’ll be able to control school night times and weekend times, giving you back the control any parent should always have. Gone are the arguments, the pleading and the rest, resulting in a new reality of a child having to think of something else to do to occupy their time. Watch how quickly that bedroom gets cleaned up, their willingness to ‘hang out’, etc…
My child has an iPhone with access to an iPad, and she has learned that, despite my effort to limit her data and times to text message on her iPhone and iPad, that IM (Instant Messaging) apps are built into the iPhone OS allowing her to chat endlessly using only a WiFi connection, bypassing data usage (3G, 5G, etc.).
If you’ve noticed, the color of regular text messaging is green, but if one is using IM via WiFi the color of the text is in a blue bubble (see below) which means you’re texting via the internet and not using cell tower ‘data’. The theoritical purpose of IM is to allow one to text more by not being as confined to data limits and fees a telephone company imposes on its customers, i.e., one can easily use up the allowable data on a limited plan especially if sending photos or videos, and thus find their phone bill growing leaps and bounds. This cost incentive provided the grounds for other companies to create apps that use the internet via WiFi.
But even if you have a plan that allows for unlimited data, and set up data usage limits (with your cell company plan), your child can bypass this by connecting via the internet and WiFi, understanding that the iPhone may be more likely to have both internet connection(s) and data cell capability, the iPad is more likely to only have a WiFi connection (although some opt to have a data plan for this device as well). Unfortunately if you wish to disconnect your child from chatting with their friends when they ‘go to bed,’ you’ll have to deal with both access portals.
This step by step instruction is focused on WiFi only. Lets get started.
GETTING THE MAC ADDRESS: Because IM does not have any parental controls, nor does many other programs like FaceTime, one has to stop the devices ability to connect to the internet in order to stop its use. To do this, you need to have the MAC address of the device (iPhone, iPad, etc.) and input that number into the AirPort Utility application on your computer (that’s how I have it set up) that controls your AirPort WiFi Time Capsule. To find a MAC address on your phone, go to iPhone > Settings > General > About and scroll down to ‘WiFi Access’ which is the MAC address.
Hopefully you’ll do this when your child is at an age that is before they change the passcode on their phone. If not, I set up ‘Who’s on my WiFi’ program on my computer, which meant she had to give it to me in order to be a ‘known user’.
Write down the Mac Address and do the same for any other devices your child might sneak into their bedroom. The MAC address is a 6 sets of paired numbers and/or letters with a colon between each pair. It may look something like this: A1:FE:2G:DD: 35:1F (example).
AIRPORT UTILITY: On a Mac, to control your WiFi, go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > Airport Utility.app and double click to open.
You should see a ‘globe’ labeled Internet, connected by a vertical line to your WiFi Time Capsule. Both should have a green dot next to their name indicating that they are connected.
If you are using a different WiFi connection then this outline may not help, but the method to controlling the times would have the same outcome if your WiFi has similar controls. With a green dot next to the WiFi TimeCapsule, click once to see a dialogue box pop up, then click on Edit (at the lower right corner) > Network > Enable Access Control (check mark yes) and click on ‘Timed Access Control’.
Under ‘Wireless Clients:‘ click on the plus sign (+) to add a client. Type in a Description like ‘My kids iPhone’ and type in the MAC address for that device. For the MAC address, the letter ‘O’ is not used but instead it is the number ‘0’ (zero) (as told to my by Apple) .
TIME ACCESS: Next, set up the times you want your child to have access. Type in the times you want the device to have access, like from 6:30 AM (wake time) to 10:00 PM (bed time).
As an example, since I am blocking internet use for my child and not for other devices except an iPad, I select ‘Everyday’ > Between and insert the times of AM and PM that I want the device to have access to WiFi.
Click SAVE (last open window closes revealing the ‘network’ window) and then click UPDATE (on the ‘network’ window click ‘Update’ located in the lower right corner).
The green dots next to the icons will turn ORANGE as the WiFi automatically updates with the new information. Within a minute or two the orange icons will return to green and the time-limits to your device(s) will be complete, the green indicating that both your internet and its connection to your WiFi Time Capsule is working.
You’ll know it is working when your child asks you for the WiFi password at 10:01 PM.
OTHER DEVICES: I do the same for an iPad by getting its Mac Address and adding a new Wireless Client (clicking on the plus sign ‘+’), typing in its unique MAC address, and setting the accessible hours. After I have each device I want limited internet access to I click SAVE and then UPDATE. Update will take a few minutes, usually just a couple, and the green dot will return to both the Internet and WiFi TimeCapsule icons. That’s it.
Combined with your provider’s Parental Controls, limiting access to the internet should help your child get a good night’s sleep, and improve their mood, grades and interactions with others, all without having to take their phone physically out of their hands. It isn’t punishment, it is about setting boundaries and limitations so they do not become obsessed or defiant.
After a few years have passed you may want to turn off the restrictions. This is why we recommend you bookmark this page, so you can easily find these step-by-step instructions to turn off the restrictions.
If you have questions, or if something isn’t clear, please let us know in the comments so we can help others. Thanks.
DATA USEAGE: Note that one can not block use of devices from connecting via data usage at specific times. This is why I do not have data connected to the iPad which is preferred by people when at home because of it’s larger screen. I also set Data Limits using a Family Plan with the cell company so that after 1MB of use by my child she can no longer use her iPhone for data forcing her to connect to the internet via WiFi. Again this reinforces responsible use of the device and helps her learn to use the data amount responsibly. I am also aware that at night the iPhone usually needs recharging and thus isn’t an option. Still, these are holes in the process of limiting use. It is unfortunate that at this time (2017) that one can’t simply use an app to limit use for both data and internet connection.
INTERNET CONNECTION LIMITS: There is also another way for your child to connect to the internet bypassing the WiFi and that is to connect directly to a computer. In this case I would recommend keeping the computer in the living room so that this isn’t a viable option at night.
Despite the potential holes, with my own experience I know that blocking the WiFi actually works. My child puts down the device when ‘time is up’ and looks for something else to do like getting ready for bed. She doesn’t question the limit and if anything it is a reminder to her what time it is just as an alarm clock would do. Her friends also understand when they get cut off from the conversation, that time is up, and therefore you are not contributing to their family issues.
Article by SimpleTwig Architecture.llc; Every nest starts with a simple twig.
Images from Apple.com and SimpleTwig Architecture
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