How to Automatically Turn off Internet Access at Night
Build better habits by automatically turning off the internet on your devices at night.
If you are trying to improve self-control for yourself or others, turning off internet access at night is a useful strategy. In 2024, it’s possible to schedule internet usage on devices that use roaming internet connections (like smartphones with 5g) as well as home internet connected to using a wired connection (ethernet) or Wi-Fi. We’ll go into the various strategies for scheduling internet usage in this guide.
Just the other day, I was looking at my smartphone's screen time usage, and was shocked to find that I was wasting well over 2 hours per day (and on some days, more than 3!). Reducing screentime is just one reason why you might want to limit your internet, but some other ones include:
- Being concerned that you children are staying up late.
- Realizing your screentime is interfering with your sleep schedule.
- Resisting temptation.
Setting a limit at night is a great place to start if you're trying to improve how much time you spend on screens. I've tried being more conscious about which devices I end up spending the most time on and found that there are many different techniques that someone might find useful. Everyone's blocking solution is different, so this article is going to try to cover some of the basics that most people might find useful.
The first place to start is at the source - your router. Most router models support an internet shutoff that can be scheduled for different times of the day, or even customized to each device connected to the router. However, this isn't an option for everyone.
Some routers simply do not support this feature. If that's the case, you can also use a DNS Filter with a scheduled policy to get the same effect (if this sounds a bit complicated, it isn't necessarily - it is a bit more advanced but can be just as effective).
Each router is going to have different settings, so making a single article or section that covers all of the nuances you might encounter is tricky. Typically, if your router does support this feature, you should be able to very quickly look it up online. To do this:
Some routers will have varying degrees of control over their shutoff:
- Total Internet Shutoff: Completely turns of the internet for all devices. It's basically the same as unplugging the router.
- Device Internet Shutoff: Shutoff Internet on a schedule per device. This is usually done by using a Mac address associated with each connection.
- Change cutoff settings with an app: Some routers (especially the higher end ones) might even offer the ability for you to change the cutoff settings with an app.
Depending on your blocking solution, you may choose to block the internet entirely at night, or just for certain devices. Most routers usually stick with the first option, and more expensive router models can have more refined controls.
I don't have internet shutoff settings on my router. What do I do?
Another, more advanced option, is to use a schedule DNS filter policy. First, I should go ahead and break down what that means.
A DNS Filter is a content filter, typically used for blocking adult content online. It can usually be set up for several different devices, including a home router.
A policy is a rule that you set. Some DNS filters let you set more customized policies that can apply to devices, or your home network. A scheduled policy is a rule you set that works on a schedule.
In our case, a scheduled policy means that you can block certain websites or domains at different times of the day. One thing that some people do is block distracting websites (like YouTube or Facebook) during work hours, and then enable them in the evening. You can also set a schedule that blocks social media at night, so it's easier to get to sleep.
Right now, Tech Lockdown is in the process of developing a filter that will allow you to schedule policies like this. These policies can also be fine-tuned so that different devices or users can be handled differently, depending on your needs.
Go Beyond Beyond Basic Blocking
Elevate your content blocking and bypass prevention.
For some of us, setting up an internet shutoff on their router will be enough. However, one of the biggest problems with just focusing on your router is that you are neglecting the bigger picture. Some devices (especially smartphones) are able to easily connect other networks - like for example, cellular.
This means that you may have to also make restrictions for each of your devices as well. I can't guarantee that this will be an easy process, but it's at least worth taking a look at how it's done.
Screen Time is a pretty useful tool for iOS users, and it allows you to manage some settings on your device. It isn't a full device management solution, but it can get the job done.
One of the features Screen Time includes is called "Downtime", and it lets you schedule when you should be taking time off of your phone. I have mine set in the evenings, so I can focus on getting some rest.
By default, Downtime restricts all apps on your iPhone, except for phone calls and messages. You can choose to make exceptions for this by including apps in the Always Allowed apps category in Screen Time. In my case, I don't have any apps that I need to restrict, but if you use some kind of content filtering, parental control, or another app that you need to keep open at night, it might be necessary.
It's also important to note that you can still disable Screen Time. One of the most important things to keep in mind when you're setting up restrictions for self-control is bypass prevention. One tip that we recommend if you want to make it harder to change Screen Time settings is to use a second Apple ID to lock Screen Time settings. That way, you can't just use the "Forgot PIN" feature to easily unlock your settings.
I personally don't use Android, but they do offer a similar competitor to iPhone. On newer models of Android, it's called Digital Wellbeing.
If you're just wanting to reduce distractions, then you can use the Bedtime mode feature to schedule when you want to not be distracted. Unfortunately, it's not like Screen Time, since it won't block you from being able to use or open apps. It does put your phone into Silent Mode and turns on the screen filter on grayscale.
If you want to fully restrict your device during specific times of the day, you will have to either:
- Use Family Link and create a Limit for yourself as a parent.
- Download a Screen Time app (there is no shortage of these).
We typically don't recommend using Family Link, since it's intended to be used for Families. It can become difficult to set up for yourself or manage your own settings. You will have to create multiple Google accounts in order to do this.
If you're using a Windows or Mac device, then you have a couple of options, either using parental controls, or using a third-party program or app.
If you're on Windows, you could use Microsoft Family Safety , in the same way you can set up Family Link on Android, to set a bedtime for yourself. However, this has the same problem as Family Link, since you will have to manage multiple accounts for yourself.
On Mac, it's a bit easier. Like the iPhone, you can set up Downtime. By default, your Screen Time settings will apply across devices that you're signed into iCloud and have enabled "Share Across Devices".
If you're looking for a solid program that you can install on both Windows and Mac, you could consider using Cold Turkey . Cold Turkey is a program that lets you set blocks for different websites, programs, or apps on a PC or Mac computer. The free version of the software is very solid - it allows you to block website URLs in your browser and lock your block settings so it's harder for you to change them later.
However, in order to use scheduled blocks, you'll need to use the premium version of the software. This might be worth it for you, since in order to get a license, all you need to pay is $40 (at the time of writing this), and you can keep the key forever. We've had a lot of success using Cold Turkey, because its bypass prevention strategy is exactly what we're looking for.
If you're curious to learn more about how we rate Cold Turkey, check out our Cold Turkey review article . We go into a lot more detail about it there.
I personally don't play on consoles as much as I used to, but many of my friends do. It can be tricky, but you can set some limits for your account (or your child's).
In general, I don't recommend going through this process for yourself, since (1) you can achieve similar results by blocking internet on your router and (2) parental controls usually require you to have an account that's below a certain age (usually 13). If you're a parent who's wanting to set limits for you child, this is fine, but for self-control, setting limits properly like this can be more of a hassle than it's worth.
PlayStation's parental controls are what you can expect nowadays: they offer controls at the account level, which can be used to:
- Limit which age rating children can access.
- How long child accounts can play each day.
- Control chat and content sharing features.
There are more options listed on their site, but these are the one's that might be most important.
Xbox has something called Family Hub , which builds off of Microsoft Family Safety features. Similar to PlayStation, restrictions are set at the account level, and include:
- Set device screen time limits.
- Set limits for a specific game.
- View activity reports.
All in all, these options might be useful for parents, but most of the same effects can be reached by simply scheduling internet access on your router .
Go Beyond Beyond Basic Blocking
Elevate your content blocking and bypass prevention.
Some apps have built-in features, similar to screen time or parental controls. However, I strongly recommend not relying on these features for a couple of reasons:
- Most Apps want you to spend as much time as possible on their platform, so any limits that they impose don't have your best interest in mind.
- Most Apps don't have limits, so it's usually a good idea to limit your activity on the device level instead.
- Even if Apps have limits, they are usually trivial to bypass. You can easily sign out of most social media sites, or switch/create profiles in the moment.
We do have several guides that you can reference if you're interested in blocking, limiting, or setting restrictions for several different platforms. The techniques in these guides use outside methods to work, such as using a DNS Filter , or Device Management .
Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. In many cases, you might want to block out the distractions (or dangers) that these platforms present. If you're interested, I would strongly recommend taking a look at our blocking social media article for more details.
Most people are unaware of how to do some pretty cool things to filter content on this platform:
- You can block YouTube thumbnails entirely, which is amazing if you still want to search the occasional video without getting distracted.
- You can enable restricted mode on YouTube in several different ways, including on your home network.
- You can also block YouTube entirely
Better Blocking for Mac & PC
Elevate your content blocking and bypass prevention with DNS Filtering and Device Management.
A DNS Filter is a content filter that allows you to block different websites. Good DNS Filters allow you to block general categories (like adult or malicious websites) of content, and are great if you are wanting to improve self-control or add protection while online.
If you start noticing that an app is taking up the majority of your free time, it might be a good idea to seriously consider limiting it. If it has begun to encroach into more than just your free time, then consider this your sign.
I don't want to block an App completely, but I want to reduce how much time I spend on it. What's the best way for me to do this?
Find out when you waste the most time. Some platforms are useful, like social media to catch up with friends. However, there are certain times of the day that you don't get useful value from those platforms. Start targeting those times, and you'll begin to add to your free time. If you use social media to keep up with friends, you most likely don't need to text them at midnight, for example.
One technique I've found very useful is to set goals for each app I have, or at least justify why they're installed in the first place. For example: "I want to use FaceBook to keep up with my friends or family", "I want to use Reddit to keep up to date with [my hobby]", or "I want to learn about creative writing". Having a purpose for each app will really help you maximize how you use it, and if you discover an app that doesn't have a good purpose, now you know you can uninstall it.
First, most apps allow you to disable Adult Content on their site, for example, Reddit lets you disable NSFW content. Research your App to see if it has something similar.
Second, consider why you need the app. If you need the app for work or friends, then that's a better reason than "I'm bored". Once you find out why you really need the app, start limiting how long you use the app each day, and start improving how efficiently you use the app to accomplish that goal.