Many CPA-led households with children don't have the appropriate systems setup to effectively share bandwidth while also protecting client data and their children's privacy. This problem isn't going away, and it certainly won't solve itself. But wait — there's an app for that! Well, technically not an app, but there is a solution. In fact, there is an entire genre of solutions.
Full-home Wi-Fi systems, often called mesh systems, offer seamless wireless coverage and ease of use. They tend to be simple to install and are usually managed with an app. Some are designed to blend in as home décor so you don't have to hide them in a closet. That allows versatile placement for optimum coverage.
Options in this space include Amazon's Eero and the Deco Whole Home Mesh systems, but this article focuses on the Gryphon AC3000 Tri-Band Smart WiFi Mesh System, which offers excellent parental controls and provides anti-malware and anti-virus (one-year subscription) from ESET Technology. It's perfect for parents seeking control over their children's online activities. The Gryphon two-pack purports to cover up to 6,000 square feet while a single unit covers 3,000 square feet. Alternatively, you could use a single unit "paired" to the two-pack for coverage of a house as large as 9,000 square feet.
Physically, the units are all the same gently tapered 9-inch towers about 4-inches square. Except they're not exactly square but rather sort of uniquely and attractively "twisted." Each unit has three gigabit LAN ports, a WAN port, a power jack, and a reset button.
Installation is managed using a mobile app. The Gryphon support page says the developers purposefully do not provide a web user interface for security reasons — so there's one less attack vector to worry about. The app provides a dashboard that allows you to pause the internet for any single managed device or user, or group of devices or users. Devices are sorted and grouped by "type," including managed devices, unmanaged devices, things, and TV and entertainment. Managed devices are given internet access only via parental control settings, which, as you might suspect, allow parents to monitor and control that device's online activities. Unmanaged devices get no restrictions while the things category (think internet of things devices such as switches, lights, thermostats, door locks, etc.) includes devices that should not be paused. The TV and entertainment devices include smart TVs, media servers, and game consoles that you may want to occasionally pause.
The system uses a combination of device "type" and user "group" for overall access management, and parents can additionally enable both a "Safe Search/YouTube filter" to prevent access to adult content, and a "Store Browsing History" option to provide parents a view of their children's browsing history. The browsing history feature is disabled by default for adults and guests.
Parental controls also include a "Bedtime" setting to shut down internet access at a specific time, and "Homework Time" to limit access to only websites required for schoolwork during specific times of day. It even provides a process for a child who has finished his or her homework early to request normal access by having the Gryphon send a notification to the parents' mobile app so they can choose to suspend the "Homework Time" mode. Finally, parents can allow/disallow access at various times to apps such as Facebook, Hulu, Minecraft, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, etc.
While I'm certain my now-adult daughter would have, in her day, pushed back hard on this level of parental control, I'm equally certain that she'll thoughtfully consider the Gryphon for her school-age children.
Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-4056.