Mesh networks are a great way to make sure your Wi-Fi signal gets full coverage throughout your home without compromising connection quality. But mesh networks also offer families of all sizes a great many features that makes parenting and keeping up with what your kids are up to online much much easier.
In a previous blog post, I talked about how Wi-Fi extenders and mesh networks can help boost your signal at home. Here, I’d like to dig a little deeper into some of the features of mesh networking at home, particularly for families with kids who are increasingly relying on the internet for entertainment, connecting with mates, and studying.
Modern-day parenting is hard!
These days, there are a lot of things that parents need to be constantly aware of and monitoring, more so than any previous generation of parents.
With social media, cyberbullying, cyber crime and cyber security, internet and device usage, what websites and web pages kids and their friends are accessing, the people kids are connecting with online and how they conduct themselves -- honestly, it sounds like a total minefield! (Massive props to parents btw -- it’s a tricky landscape you’re treading these days, so kudos to you and the tough job you’re doing!)
What is a mesh network?
A mesh network extends your internet connection throughout your home by working off another router. It works in a similar way to a Wi-Fi extender except instead of stretching the capability of the main router, a mesh network means that each router works like a standalone but they all communicate with each other. This means that you can expand the connection radius of your Wi-Fi without sacrificing connection quality or latency. Yet, because they’re all individual devices, it also means you have far more control over who can access what and when.
Oh, the power.
How can a mesh network help your family?
Mesh networks have a great many features that growing families can take advantage of, many of which you may not know about.
There are, of course, the usual advantages of a mesh network, whereby you can have fast internet speeds throughout your home with few (if any) dead areas. Many mesh devices also have either built-in or access to voice controls and assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant. These are great for setting alarms and timers, playing music, asking simple questions, or getting them to tell you (terrible) jokes.
BUT! One of the key advantages of a mesh network for growing families is the control.
Oh, the control!!
In reality, a lot of the additional controls come from the router itself, so some of these controls are available on non-mesh routers as well. But when many of these routers that have mesh networking capabilities can supply house-wide Wi-Fi coverage on top of these features, it's basically a win-win however you look at it.
Monitor what the kids are doing online
With many mesh network devices (not all brands offer the same things, so do your research), parents can create individual user profiles, assign devices to these profiles, and check when these users were online.
So if you think little Timmy is up playing Fortnite well past his bedtime, the Wi-Fi router acts as the dibber-dobber and shows you just how late he was up.
Control when the kids are online
Monitoring is great and all, but doesn’t wield as much fear and terror as controlling the internet does. As the parent, using a router with mesh network capabilities means you can turn off internet access in strategic areas of the house at will.
Little Timmy not done the dishes yet? No internet in his room until it’s done.
And because many of these routers allow you to set up individual user profiles, it means that the rest of the family can still enjoy full internet access while little Timmy goes without.
With some routers with mesh networking abilities, you can get even more granular with your control. If little Johnny was a little bit naughty but not so bad that he needs a full grounding, you can, for example, block his access to social media for a couple days or stop him from streaming TV and gaming in his bedroom or the study until his homework is done.
Be the all-powerful gate-keeper of internet access
Many mesh network routers also have the option to set up a guest network. This means you can invite people to (or kick them off) your network as you please.
So, when friends come over, you don’t need to give someone else’s kid the Wi-Fi password -- you just need to invite them to the guest network where you can set boundaries around what they can and can’t access online.
Similarly, if you don’t like one of little Timmy’s friends and want them to hurry up and go home already, you can switch off the kid’s access and act like a dumb parent who doesn’t know anything about technology.
The in-laws overstayed their welcome? With the flip of a switch their internet access will be mysteriously down. Problem solved!
Protect the kids from doing bad stuff online
A particularly tricky aspect of parenting these days is cyber security. Kids are learning about the world and are naturally curious, so it’s not a surprise that, when given access to a powerful technology like the internet, they’re likely to find some dark, troubling things there. Modern routers are great at both cyber security and filtering.
Again, some routers with mesh networking capabilities can get quite granular when it comes to web filtering and allows parents to filter and block access to broad categories like “gaming”, “entertainment and streaming services”, “social networking”, or “school cheating”.
Many routers also offer features that block malware and protect your VPN as well as ad blocking and pop-up ad elimination. These all differ across the different brands and models of mesh networking routers, some offer it as part of the package, some offer it as an additional subscription, others not at all. So if this is especially important to your family, be sure to do your research.
Which mesh router should you get?
At Superloop, we like the eero mesh router for its easy installation, wide selection of controls, and cyber security options, but there are a lot out there that can offer different options and controls. If you're shopping around, PCMag Australia has a detailed review of some of the best on offer in 2021.
Of course, as parents, you can’t be everywhere and do everything for your kids. They’ll mess up (even when you’re elderly -- there’s really no escape!), but it’s all part of growing up. At least with a mesh network, you can keep the kids safely online at home as best you can.