Even if you’ve set up parental controls on your devices, your teen is just as tech-savvy as you are, if not more. They’ve been raised in a digital age where surfing the web and social media use are second-nature. They can easily disarm a simple pop-up blocker or clear their browser history. So how do you protect them from the Internet when your original safety controls don’t do the trick?person erasing search history

Teens Admit to Hiding Activity From Their Parents

Start by understanding what it is that teens do to hide their activity from you. CNN Business reported that 70% “hide their online behavior” from parents.

Teens reported hiding activity from their parents in the following ways:

  • 53% clear browser history
  • 34% hide or delete IMs or videos
  • 21% use an Internet-enabled mobile device
  • 20% use privacy settings to make content viewable only to friends
  • 20% use private browsing modes

With so many teens hiding online activity from their parents, it calls into question if parents are taking the correct precautionary measures.

7 Common Ways to Bypass Parental Controls

Luckily, by understanding how these parental controls work, you can stop your kids from bypassing them. Here are seven ways your teen might get around the parental controls that you’ve set up. Jump to the infographic.

visual of proxy sites

1. Proxy Sites

How It Bypasses

A web proxy is a method of hiding your IP address from the websites you visit.

Similar to most search engines, proxy sites are easy to use. If a teen has been forbidden from visiting a site, they can simply enter the web address into a proxy site search and it will route the request to an external server. In this way, your teen can access the site without any trace that they visited it.

What To Do

If you have filters or parental controls where you’ve blocked a certain site, the site won’t be detected if it’s visited through a proxy website. However, you can’t hide that a proxy site has been visited. Keep an eye out for sites that have “proxy” in the URL. Many filters will automatically block the most popular proxy sites.

Not only can these proxy sites allow kids to access forbidden content, but they can open your computer up to threats. Many of them are ridden with malware or malvertising. It’s important that you’re aware of these proxies so that you can keep your kids and your devices safe.

visual that shows a vpn

2. VPNs

How It Bypasses

Similar to a proxy site, a virtual private network (VPN) is able to redirect your traffic through an external server. Where it differs is that a proxy site can only route web traffic through a server while a VPN can route all of your network traffic. Using a VPN, your children can encrypt their searches so that they aren’t traced.

What To Do

VPNs are incredibly hard to identify because your router won’t show a new IP address and the broadband provider won’t have access to the content history. There will be no way to see what sites your teen accessed.

One way to know if your child uses a VPN is to ask them about it. If they are familiar with how they work, it could be a sign that they’re bypassing your security. Another is to check to see if there is a sign of the VPN. If not set up properly, there could be a VPN leak. You can also check your billing statement to see if they have purchased a paid VPN.

visual that shows dns programs

3. DNS Programs

How It Bypasses

A Domain Name System (DNS) is referred to as the phonebook of the Internet because it holds all the information for domains. A quick search can provide you with the IP address of any site. Many parents use programs that allow you to filter which of these sites can be accessed at home. Teens can bypass these protections by using other public DNS servers or installing their own router.

What To Do

To prevent this, be sure your passwords are secure. Watch the reports on your DNS program to make sure they match the actions of your teen. For instance, if they frequent Instagram, but there’s no sign of this, there’s a chance they’ve bypassed your DNS.

visual that shows free wifi

4. Public WiFi

How It Bypasses

Teens are especially savvy when it comes to finding WiFi. They can log in to public WiFi as well as a friend’s or neighbor’s. These foreign networks probably don’t have the same security settings that yours does, allowing kids free reign when accessing websites.

What To Do

While this allows kids to access sites, it doesn’t cover their tracks. They may delete their browsing history, but many times they forget. If they delete their past searches, there are ways to recover the data such as doing a system restore or looking at the cookies.

visual that show private browsing mode

5. Private Browsing Mode

How It Bypasses

There are private browsing modes like InPrivate or Incognito that allow someone to browse without tracking their history. Kids often use this to throw parents off when attempting to reach inappropriate sites.

What To Do

Safe search tools and parental settings will usually still apply when searching through private mode. The flagged sites will stay off-limits. In addition, private browsing is not as private as you or your kid might think. Other add-ons and plugins in the browser could still be storing information. Monitoring software like parental controls can also monitor and track your actions.

graphic that shows using related images to get around security

6. Related Image Searches

How It Bypasses

If your teen is especially clever, they may have figured out that the sites that are blocked on Google aren’t blocked on Google Images. If they enter a search in Google (even in private browsing) and then click the “Image” tab, they can get by any safe search feature that is set up.

This happens because the image is part of the HTML markup of the page and can’t be blocked unless all of Google is blocked.

What To Do

If your child attempts to bypass these security settings on a normal browser, there will be a history of them looking through the “Image” tab.

graphic that shows using internet doorways to get around parental settings

7. Internet Doorways

How It Bypasses

Internet doorways refer to the many ways you can access the Internet aside from search engines. These non-traditional methods include apps and video games that allow Internet access. Many apps have search features that allow you to browse the web unfiltered. Video games can also have search features.

What To Do

Be aware of all the ways your teen has access to the Internet. Many parental control programs will inform you of what apps your child uses. Research the apps and find advice on how to keep your kid safe on platforms like Snapchat or Facebook. Be sure to discuss the dangers of social media scams as well.

infographic on how teens are hiding their online activity

Teens can be tricky when they try to get around your security settings. The best thing you can do is use a monitoring tool like Panda Security’s Dome Family and keep up to date on the latest tech tricks they use.


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