How to Monitor Websites that were Visited on Your WiFi
Did you know that the average American spends more time looking at a screen every day than they spend sleeping? Before you start making excuses, that number doesn't even include the time they use their devices for school work.
When people spend so much time online every day, it's only natural to worry that they are coming across inappropriate sites or adult content. This question might lead you to wonder: can I monitor the websites visited on my WiFi network?
In short, the answer is yes. Let's look at the different approaches for keeping track of where you (and your WiFi users) are spending time online.
Check Your Router Log
If you're looking for a DIY method to monitor your WiFi traffic, you can check your router history. You'll need to use your web browser to log into your router to access a "History" or "Logs" setting.
Note: different routers will log various information, meaning that your router might not log specific sites or IPs visited.
It's pretty simple to check your router history, but the exact steps can vary depending on your router brand.
Login to your router:
The router is the device that also handles Wifi. Sometimes the router and modem are combined into one device. In other cases, you might use a modem and router separately.
The precise sequence of actions might be a bit different on your router, but the general concept is the same:
- Choose Advanced (or, depending on your router, Logs, Device History, or Administration)
- Choose System (your router might have slightly different options, but you'll want to select something relating to History or System Log)
- If you haven't done so already, choose System Log
- Now, you can browse through the history of your router (depending on the brand of router, you might be able to filter your system log results)
Some routers will also list a client name next to each IP address - this will show you which device was used to access each site.
While this is a cheap and straightforward way to check into the websites that people visit on your WiFi, it might not give you the information you're looking for. As mentioned above, you'll only be able to see IP addresses and not specific users - this means that determining which sites people are visiting on your WiFi network will take additional research.
Add a Content Filter to your Home Network
Another method you can use to monitor websites visited on your WiFi is to change your router's DNS settings to point to a content filter. This is the most comprehensive approach because you'll be able to view the web traffic of any device that connects to your home internet.
When you configure a content filtering service, like the filter provided by Tech Lockdown, you can use your Tech Lockdown dashboard to monitor network traffic in real-time. Additionally, it also gives you complete control over restricting access to harmful websites.
One important thing to note: proxies and VPNs can be used to anonymize web traffic to circumvent content filters and monitoring tools. This is one of the reasons why Tech Lockdown allows you to block “Proxy & Filter Avoidance”. Additionally, we also include setup guides that show you how to prevent filter circumvention.
Configuring your router to point to a filtering service can seem daunting, but our free router setup guides will give you step-by-step instructions.
If you are only interested in monitoring network traffic, not filtering or blocking content, you could also consider a free service like OpenDNS. You can check out our full tutorial for setting up OpenDNS Home here .
However, one of the downsides of OpenDNS is that you won't be able to see traffic in real-time. The data is only available after 24 hours, and it doesn't specify which device visited which site.
Get Powerful DNS Filtering
Install a Content Filter App Directly on Devices
Suppose you would prefer not to look at your router's log or are unsatisfied with only being provided with IP addresses. In that case, you'll probably need to install an application on the devices you want to monitor.
Parental control apps typically provide the ability to monitor traffic from a single dashboard.
Parental control software can provide various features, including blocking certain websites, monitoring social media activity, and imposing time restrictions.
If you are specifically interested in being able to watch the websites that your family is visiting, apps like FamiSafe, FamilyTime, and uMobix, to name a few, allow you to check your families' online web browser history. Check out our guide comparing the top parental control apps here .
Parental control software isn't always the right decision if you are looking to deter risky online behavior. According to a pair of studies from the University of Central Florida, the use of these apps is actually "associated with teens experiencing more, not fewer, online risks." In addition, the study found that teens would "rather their parents talk to them" and give them "trust and respect" instead of using apps to track their activity instead of communication.
If you are a Tech Lockdown member, you can configure content filtering on your home internet connection and also directly on specific devices. This allows you to enforce content filtering and monitor websites visited on any internet connection (even when away from home).
One of the benefits of using an application is seeing what sites your users are accessing even when they aren't connected to your home WiFi network.
Another downfall of parental control apps is that kids to be more tech-literate than their parents are. For example, Google's Family Link is easily circumvented without a pin. Your kids might know how to change the settings or disable the app entirely. We've compiled an extensive list of Family Link alternatives to help you control the sites your kids can access more effectively.
Signup for Tech Lockdown
Wireshark is a packet-capturing tool primarily used by cybersecurity and IT professionals. If you're a tech-savvy person who wants to be able to monitor traffic on your network in real time, this is a solid option. However, those less technologically-inclined will likely find the software too complex and challenging to use.
When you use WireShark software, you can see the IP address of each device that is connected to your network.
You can then select the one you are interested in monitoring to see both incoming and outgoing data packets - though this isn't quite as simple as it sounds.
There can be a lot of redundant information that you will have to sort through and make sense of to get the information you are looking for.
To capture packets from devices other than the one you're using, you'll need to go to the options menu to turn on promiscuous mode and set the filter for HTTP requests. You will likely need to purchase a separate WiFi adapter to monitor the traffic on other devices, though - this is because most devices have packet capturing locked by the manufacturers.
Wireshark can be an excellent tool for network administrators, but the learning curve is too big for the average person.
Filtering Content Vs. Monitoring Traffic
Monitoring the traffic on your WiFi can help you understand where your users are spending time online and the types of inappropriate content they might be exposed to while browsing. While countless apps allow you to block adult content, many fall short in a few crucial areas. Additionally, monitoring your home network's traffic means you don't know what sites your users are accessing when connected to a different WiFi network.
Instead of keeping tabs on Wifi traffic, it's better to simply block the unwanted content.
That's where we come in. Our subscription service isn't just another blocker app, but it gives you access to the most advanced DNS Filtering service available. This filtering service works anywhere, not just on your home network.
On top of that, you'll have access to our interactive tutorials that allow you to configure better blocking and prevent circumvention. These informative guides take you through what you need to do step-by-step without any unnecessary fluff.