How to Monitor and Restrict Router Traffic: 4 Tips and Tricks
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You’re watching a movie on Netflix when suddenly the internet comes screeching to a halt. The buffering screen seems to take forever. So, what’s causing your sudden internet slow-down?

Well, if you have kids with mobile devices, laptops, consoles, or computers in their bedroom, then chances are, you’re facing a bandwidth crisis. What’s the solution? How do you make sure the kids are sleeping on a school night rather than streaming video under the duvet?

The best option is managing your home internet use directly from the router. Here’s how to control the internet in your home!

Managing Home Internet Use: Monitoring or Spying?

Thankfully, there are all kinds of ways you can use your router to monitor your home network traffic. You can block traffic during certain times and days, give higher priority to specific devices that are more important for the family, and figure out which devices are consuming the most data.

Knowing how to monitor traffic and usage on the router level is important, especially with a bandwidth-hungry family.

Better still, monitoring at the router level doesn’t feel as invasive as installing parental controls or other monitoring software directly your children’s devices, a delicate struggle for many parents. Installing a tracking or monitoring program walks the fine line between monitoring your kids and spying on them, which no parent wants to do.

1. Router Traffic: Quality of Service Settings

Manage internet settings on your router

One of the first things to do is give your living room entertainment system the highest priority for the available bandwidth coming to and from the internet. Quality of Service (QoS) settings on your router 5 Reasons to Enable Quality of Service Settings on Your Router 5 Reasons to Enable Quality of Service Settings on Your Router You live in a busy household. Everyone wants the best internet speeds. But your router is slow. You need to enable Quality of Service settings to share the bandwidth around. Here's why! Read More let you adjust the bandwidth for individual applications and devices on your home network.

The location of the QoS menu varies depending on your router, as do the menu options.

For the most part, however, under the QoS menu, you will need to enable an Internet Priority setting of some sort. This setting is where you assign connection priority to a specific device.

Typically, you assign “medium priority” to devices so that even when it requires a lot of bandwidth, it doesn’t drain the bandwidth of other connected network devices. However, if you have a device like a network internet streamer that keeps locking up because other people are using your bandwidth, setting the device priority to “High” will resolve the issue.

2. Logging and Tracking Router Traffic

If you’re curious about what’s using up the bandwidth in your home network, there’s no need to run around and installing surveillance equipment on every device. Most routers offer the ability to log internet usage for both incoming and outgoing traffic. The option to log router traffic is often found in the Administrator section of your router menu.

Log router traffic

Once you find the Administrator menu, look for a menu named “Log” or similar. You should find an option to enable logging for incoming, outgoing, or all router traffic. Then it is just a case of waiting for a while then checking the incoming and outgoing router logs.

Checking the Outgoing log will give you some idea about what websites your kids are visiting.

Check the router logs for internet activity

When you open the log, find the IP address corresponding to their computer on the list, then the outgoing IP address that appears alongside it. Depending on your router, you will see an IP address or the actual website name. If it is the former, don’t worry. Head to the MXToolBox Reverse IP Lookup page, input the IP address, and search.

It won’t find every website, but it will show the majority. A reverse IP lookup is definitely one of the easiest, fastest ways to quickly figure out what your kids are doing on your home network that is consuming so much bandwidth.

Chances are you will find IP addresses linking to Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Twitch, and so on—common internet sites you would expect to find. At least it gives you some explanation as to what’s going on with your disappearing bandwidth.

3. Block Internet Use Using a Schedule

If you talk to your kids about staying off of the internet late on a school night, but they keep ignoring you—sneaking those devices into bedrooms and surfing the internet into the early morning hours—you have more internet blocking options.

Many routers give you the option to block internet use from your network on a set schedule. For example, you could block internet access to your children’s devices from 9PM on school nights.

Find the Device MAC Address

Internet block scheduling isn’t usually difficult to set up. First, you need to identify the MAC address of the devices you want to limit. A MAC address is a unique identifier for a device, hardcoded at the time of manufacture. On most routers, you can find device MAC addresses in the Local Network menu of your router.

Check device MAC addresses on your router

The Local Network menu should show all current and recent device connections for your router. Underneath or alongside the IP addresses, you will see a string of six pairs of letters and numbers (it’ll look similar to this: A8:BE:1C:F4:D0:3A). Locate the name of your child’s device, then copy down the MAC address value.

Once you find the MAC address for the devices you to limit, you need to find the “Access Restrictions” menu area. Remember, this menu may have a different title on your router. Here you can define several different policies for your kids’ devices and customize specific internet access rules for them.

Set access rules in your router

Create an Internet Time Restriction Schedule

Create a new internet schedule policy or rule, then add the MAC addresses you copied down earlier. Next, define the access restrictions you want to apply to those devices. Depending on your router, you might have to fiddle with the timings.

For instance, one Linksys router model doesn’t allow restrictions to begin in the PM and finish in the AM, so you would have to make two rules that bookend one another.

Set access times per device

Because you are using individual device MAC addresses, you can create specific rules for each device. So, if you have a younger child that should switch off early, assign a separate rule for their device. Or if you have an older child studying for exams, you could increase their internet schedule by an hour (just so long as they are actually using it to study!).

How to monitor home network traffic with your router.

Controlling the internet schedule is probably one of the most effective ways to manage your kids’ internet usage. If you have kids (or anyone else, for that matter) who won’t honor your requests to stop using the internet after a certain hour, you can take matters into your own hands.

Just bare in mind that cunning children might figure out how to change their device MAC address How to Change Your Mac's MAC Address (and Why) How to Change Your Mac's MAC Address (and Why) A MAC address is a serial number that ships with every hardware device connected to the Internet. Here's how (and why) changing it on your Mac might be a good idea. Read More . If they do, they’ll skirt any router-level restrictions you put in place using the MAC address as an identifier.

4. Block Certain Internet Behaviors

If you are lucky enough to have children who listen to you and honor your wishes to use the internet responsibly, you may not need any of the tips in this article. On the other hand, if you have kids at the opposite end of the spectrum, who tend do things like use a VPN to bypass your internet filters or use a proxy to torrent illegal content, you might need to pull out the big guns. (Here are some ways your kids might bypass parental control tools 7 Ways Your Children Might Bypass Parental Control Software 7 Ways Your Children Might Bypass Parental Control Software Just because you've installed a safety net in parental control software doesn't mean your children won't find a way to navigate through it. Here's how they'll do it! Read More !)

Depending on your router, you may have access to advanced tools like VPN Passthrough blocking, or individual controls for vital web scripts such as Java, AJAX, and ActiveX. Some routers let you block cookies and the use of proxies, too.

Block content on your router

It doesn’t matter how your child configures their browser or the computer. The router is the source of the internet coming to and from your home, so it trumps everything. If you turn ActiveX scripting off, it stays off. These advanced firewall functions take precedence over everything else.

Can You Block All Devices From the Internet?

Keep in mind that nothing is 100% bullet-proof. If your child is clever enough, they will find a way around your internet restrictions at the router level.

Perhaps they will figure out router administrator password? Or how about just bypass the router entirely? If your child has access to a smartphone with a decent data plan, they can use that as a Wi-Fi hotspot, where your router restrictions are of no use.

However, these tips will give you at least a fighting chance to try and manage what goes on in your home network, as well as how people access the internet from it. You might not want to use all of your options straight away, either. A gradual increase to curb excessive internet use might encourage your children to bring their internet use back to a responsible level.

Remembering, of course, that talking and open dialog is often the best option of all. But if that fails, you have these tools at your fingertips. And if you need a little help with restrictions on your child’s mobile device, here’s how you can hide and restrict apps on iPhone How to Hide and Restrict Apps on iPhone How to Hide and Restrict Apps on iPhone Looking to lock down apps on your iPhone to control your children's access? Here's how to restrict apps using Screen Time. Read More .

While you’re poking around your router, check there are no uninvited visitors. Here’s how to monitor your home network usage What's Using My Bandwidth? 5 Tips to Monitor Home Network Usage What's Using My Bandwidth? 5 Tips to Monitor Home Network Usage Is something draining your internet bandwidth capacity? Check and troubleshoot what is using your bandwidth with these tips. Read More .

Explore more about: Network Issues, Network Tips, Parenting and Technology, Router, Wi-Fi.

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  1. dragonmouth
    April 16, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    "Managing Home Internet Use: Monitoring or Spying?"
    Depends on who you are. If you're a parent, it is monitoring. If you're the kid, it's spying.

  2. cathy
    August 8, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks this article was really helpful. I'm not very Tech savy, but I think I can figure it out by your instructions on how to click off the Internet at a certain time.
    Thanks

  3. DG
    April 10, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Hi,
    If the router reset button is pushed do all my settings go back to default? I mean the settings for limiting my children’s internet access??
    Thanks!

  4. MIKEJ
    March 31, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    plese explain how blocking by mac address and schedule can be done with a NETgear ROUTER! tHEIR ACCESS CONTROLS SUCK!.

  5. andrei
    February 29, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Would of been nice if it explained how to get into lynksis by cicsco, Im lost, how am i suppose to edit all that information

  6. Anonymous
    November 3, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    Kind of late to the discussion but one of the most important first steps to managing your internet usage is to understand what devices are connected to your network and how much data they are consuming, when.

    If you have one of *WRT firmware variants running on your router, my (free) usage monitoring add-on called `YAMon` (short for Yet Another Monitor) does exactly that.

    The data is aggregated by hour, day and month (within your ISP billing interval) and can be rolled-up into arbitrary groups (e.g., by family member or by any other logical grouping of devices). Reports are presented in nicely formatted HTML tables and charts.

    YAMon can be downloaded from http://www.dd-wrt.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=259806

    Al

    (*WRT--> DD-WRT, OpenWRT, AsusWRT)

  7. Anonymous
    July 28, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    It would probably just be easier and faster to use this service called appiom. I'm currently part of the beta and you can just shut off the internet at bed time and they have web filtering.. Super cool. Still in beta til September or something but you should check it out.

  8. Lauren
    April 17, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Haha... Ever heard of total transparancy in Marriage? Do u think after the ring slips on you will morph into a better human being? Sorry aint gonna happen. If u want privacy stay single and do the girl you lie to a favor. You obviously do not consider her as something of value . Needs between women and men are vastly different, none of which are for privacy. This article is amazing and i wish there were more articles online about this very same topic because one less douch bag allowed to get away with heartbreaking someone else is getting out of control. Stop looking at porn because too soon will u come to see that the Johnson will only work for u in a private setting with only a screen. Give ur girl a real chance to be wanted and desired by someome who understands the responsibility .

    • D S
      May 2, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      How do you know its a man? There is nothing that is in that person's statement that suggests it is a man writing it. Maybe you should get off your man hater mode and realize that women cheat too. I have encountered numerous women, i.e.female coworkers, friends of coworkers, etc that were cheating on their husbands and having relationships outside their marriage. Reread the above statemnt with a woman's voice and you may get my point. If you want to play stereotypes, it is more likely that the controlling MAN did the compueter wizardry to monitoir his WOMAN, and now the woman doesnt know how to stop him. See how it can go both ways.

    • Ryan Dube
      May 2, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      DS has an excellent point.

      • Anonymous
        June 17, 2015 at 2:09 pm

        Apart from the fact it says Written by Ryan Dube and has HIS photo next to the article!!!

        • Anonymous
          December 5, 2015 at 3:36 pm

          Mark Bennett, Lauren is replying to the post made by "the one and only" on March 15, 2015, not to the article.

    • Anonymous
      December 5, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Lauren, in "the one and only"'s opening statement was written, "I would like to thank all you people for helping my fiance basically monitor my phone..." The word "fiance" refers to "a man engaged to be married". So, the writer is a woman who desires privacy from the man she intends to marry.

  9. the one and only
    March 15, 2015 at 9:27 am

    I would like to thank all you people for helping my fiance basically moniter my phone...now can someone please help me with a way to basically shut the shit down or get it reversed so i can have my privacy back.....please help with this problem thanks to all again and keep up the work i know there will be someone who will need this in the future.....

  10. Anonymous
    February 27, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    If i have a iphone can parents see what i search.. I have it on private.. How do i acccess the router threw my iphone and delete the history on it... Can i just press the reset butten on the back to clear the search history... ????

  11. Sg
    January 14, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    I know this article is almost a year old but I have been doing research in this area. Almost no one will touch the settings on their router. In fact, I bet 95% of people don't know the password to it. But now that cable companies are starting to cap data usage like cell phone companies (to protect revenue erosion from untethered TV services), knowing how much and what you are using on your net is going to grow in importance.

    I just think the device that does it will have to be dead solid easy to interact with. In fact, I think you will need to interact with an IPHONE app and have it set the parameters through a "wizard" interface that looks nothing like router config page. Definitely a market for someone that comes along with this!

    • Anonymous
      June 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Check out Appiom. Currently in Beta, but looks amazing.

  12. Larry
    February 1, 2014 at 11:46 am

    When I discovered my sone was visiting a pornography site in the wee hours, I used the host file to route the ip address to a local page that read "Quit looking at dirty pictures and go to bed!"
    Luckily my son has a good sense of humor, because all he said was "Nice one, Dad" but he knew I was watching where he was going, and that's all it took.

    • SI
      May 7, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      I'm interested in doing the same thing and I'm not very technical, so can you give me some details please on how to do this? Thanks.

  13. Lu
    January 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I can think of one more thing that is beneficial from blocking your kids full internet access: maybe he/she will be stimulated in trying to break or go around the obstacles, thus being a great learning experience in the modern technologies, and maybe, just maybe, he will be interested in furthering his knowledge on this and many other related topics.

  14. Aibek E
    January 24, 2014 at 11:24 am

    great article Ryan!

  15. Rohan
    January 24, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Try WebCurfew!

  16. Patch
    January 24, 2014 at 3:44 am

    Please be forewarned, your kids and their friends will start calling you a Net-Nazi. But if you're ok with that, or if you laugh maniacally once they're done angrily screaming and stomp away, this is solid tyran~PARENTAL...parental advice...yes.

    • Kevin
      January 24, 2014 at 8:42 am

      I'm guessing you were trying to make some joke or some obscure point, but there is something to be said about being a parent, not a friend.

  17. ERA
    January 23, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Great piece of advice. Thanks for sharing!

    PS. Small type error at "It doesn’t matter how people on your network configure their browsers, the touter is the source for all Internet access, so it trumps everything."

  18. Ritchie Annand
    January 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Just hope that your neighbors don't have an unsecured high-speed router ;)

    • Kevin
      January 24, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Or a cell phone with internet. Although I think you can control when they're allowed on their phones with some things for a low price of your left arm.

  19. Luc S
    January 23, 2014 at 9:45 am

    The problem with using OpenDNS on the router is that you shoot yourself in the foot:
    Blocking certain sites/activities (YouTube, torrenting, gaming) means they are blocked *for all devices* on the router, even your own...

    I finally solved the issue with my son by :
    * OpenDNS-ing his IP adress on his laptop
    * downgrading his user account from administrator to normal user

  20. Victor O
    January 23, 2014 at 9:37 am

    I'd love to try this out on a network which I need to control, but it's hopelessly outdated...

    • Kevin
      January 24, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Not sure what part is outdated, but this tech has been around since the beginning of high speed internet (or even 56k). Just might need to follow different procedures.

  21. Current User
    January 22, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    I do this with Tomato on my 3000.

  22. Donna
    January 22, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Thanks! Has Critter got a surprise coming tonight! (he is only 11)

  23. Kenton
    January 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    These are great examples. I also like to use the OpenDNS service to do content filtering. It is way more efficient and effective than putting filters on individual devices (and it's free). This way no matter what device your kid is using, they get the same filters. The only requirement is you have to be able to manually configure DNS settings on your router.

  24. Justin D
    January 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Wow this is insanely helpful, especially for people like me with no experience with WiFi routers. Thanks much!