Most parents freeze up when you ask them about their Wi-Fi router. “Is that the same as a modem?” “Haven’t touched it since my internet provider gave us one last year.” “It’s behind the couch somewhere.”
In the age of COVID-19, your router is the social distancing champion. No one goes near it!
And yet, we believe it’s the MOST important digital device in any home. Here’s why.
Wi-Fi Routers At A Glance
PYE performed testing on four popular WiFi router solutions: Circle, Gryphon, Google WiFi, Bark Home, and Eero. We poked around like a curious teen. Spoke with their customer service. Loaded them up with 9+ devices and tried to use them just like you do.
There are others we could have tested. But these four tend to be the ones we hear parents mention the most. We also compared them to a FREE service like CleanBrowsing, which some parents really like, too (OpenDNS is similar to CleanBrowsing, but not as effective).
Related post: How to block porn on any device for free
We’re pretty good at testing stuff! (You should check out our 2020 parental control software testing! Excel spreadsheet explosion!)
In the end, the Gryphon router came out on top. It’s easy to install, looks good, has a strong safe search, and is tough to circumvent. It also has a really inexpensive VPN solution for using your home’s network controls on data plans and other networks (HomeBound).
Gryphon has the single Guardian unit at $99, which works for my family’s needs. For larger homes (>2,000 sq. ft.), you’ll want the tower shown in the picture below for just over $200.
Circle is by far the most popular device, and did well (we still recommend it), but its strength is screen time control – not content control. The sites that kids might visit end up in a bit of a jumbled mess and are hard to sort, especially if you have a lot of devices.
Remember, Circle isn’t a router. While there is a Netgear router that has Circle built into it, Circle usually connects to your existing router. Full disclosure, we didn’t test the Netgear router – we tested the separate Circle device like you see in the image below. We mention this so that you are aware of the cost. When we say that Circle costs $129, that’s just the Circle device and not a router cost.
Google WiFi has a huge advantage, in that its Nest and voice assistant make it much more than just a Wi-Fi router. Although it blocks most known porn domains with SafeSearch, you can still browse explicit search results. I can’t click or tap through to anything, but when I can read the metadata (descriptions) attached to search results, it can get pretty nasty. When you see the yellow “URL” in the testing results below, you now know what it means.
Eero honestly just stunk at just about everything we tried – other than an easy set-up and it’s pretty. But as far as protecting my kids from online harm – I wouldn’t trust it with my kids (and everything has to work on my kids before I recommend it for your kids).
A few other considerations
- Gryphon initially lost my support ticket and left me hanging for a few days. This is why they got a yellow on the spreadsheet with the “Fast – email” tag. Once they found my request, they were FAST with a response. My request, unfortunately, coincided with a support desk software change, and some tickets got lost – including mine!
- We were truly shocked at how many holes there are in the Eero “safe search” option. Dare I say that their parental controls are a “mesh!”
Wi-Fi Router Testing Results
Bring on the spreadsheets! Excel is one of my love languages, so here are the testing results that support our Wi-Fi router conclusions.
When you see “URL’S” highlighted in yellow, that means you can’t click through to sites, but you can see search results in the URL listing. These site descriptions can be very graphic, even if there aren’t any pictures or videos.
As you can see, Gryphon does the best job at just blocking most search engines in addition to blocking known porn domains. This avoids the URL’s from being seen at all.
Gryphon, Circle, and Eero each have a service that can take your home’s network settings and use them anywhere – data, McDonald’s Wi-Fi, friend’s house.
It’s time to get your router under control!
**Special note for AT&T U-verse families (and anyone else with a router from an Internet Service Provider who won’t let you change the DNS settings). Unfortunately, those darn 2-Wire routers from AT&T and others are NOT configurable. This great article from CleanBrowsing explains how you can purchase another router, like the Gryphon Guardian, and use it in tandem with the U-Verse router.
- Do something about the router in your home. If you don’t know how, then ask a nearby teenager! Setting up the router and talking about why certain controls are in place for both the kids and the adults is a GREAT way to have a TRUST-BUILDING conversation with your child, giving them agency in the process.
- Did you know that PYE is creating an app for parents? The pandemic has robbed us of our ability to meet with parent and student groups, so we’re bringing our best content right to your purse/pocket. Like the router set-up example in #1 above, the entire app shows families how to learn technology together. Would you like to join the PROTECT launch team? We’d love to have you!