Can your kids hide their internet history from you? Yes they can! But parents have options. Keep reading!
Parents used to be able to check their computer or device’s browser history and find out which websites their kids had been visiting. But it’s gotten more complicated…
A question about hiding internet history
Recently we received this question from Melanie, a concerned (and proactive) mom:
I am concerned by the new feature in most internet browsing programs where a different tab can be used which hides activity (Google Chrome’s Incognito tab and Internet Explorer/Microsoft Edge’s InPrivate browsing function).
They are designed for people to deliberately hide their activity, and as my children get older I don’t want such an enticing and easy option available for them, or the rest of my family.
Do you know if there is a program I can use, or an app, or some way of getting into the settings to turn these functions off?
By the way, “Incognito mode,” or private browsing mode, is a setting in the web browser of most Android devices. When a user opens a browsing tab in incognito mode, their web browsing becomes completely private. This is what an incognito tab looks like:
We asked two of Protect Young Minds’ techie friends to provide answers and some important options for parents.
From Chris McKenna of Covenant Eyes and founder of the website ProtectYoungEyes
MOBILE iOS (Apple)
For mobile browsers like Chrome or Safari, the ability to control the private or incognito browsing depends on the platform (Apple, Android or Microsoft etc.).
For iOS, if Restrictions are enabled, and Safari web browsing is set to “Limit Adult Content,” Safari does not allow private browsing. It keeps all history. If no restrictions are set on Safari, then private browsing is able to be activated. Check out how to place restrictions on Apple devices here.
- It’s also important to have the Apple App store turned off, because if Safari is restricted, a child could circumvent Safari by simply downloading another browser that does allow private browsing.
- Note: Setting Safari web browsing to “Limit Adult Content” under Restrictions doesn’t do anything to limit other browsers (hence the importance of locking down the App store).
- Even better, toggle Safari off, and use a filtered monitored browser. There are a few good ones out there. I recommend Mobicop for younger kids and Covenant Eyes for older kids (affiliate link).
I’m almost positive you can’t do anything to limit private browsing in Chrome. This is why it’s important to use a filtered and monitored browser like Covenant Eyes (affiliate link) on Android. Our Android App Block feature can get rid of the Google Play Store, eliminating the circumvention risk. It also pushes internet browsing through our browser app (which doesn’t have anything incognito).
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Whether it’s a Mac or PC, Covenant Eyes (affiliate link) rates and reports all incognito and private browsing. Even if the browser says there’s no history being captured, Covenant Eyes is capturing it. I’m sure there are other laptop solutions which can do the same thing. It’s easier to capture history on those operating systems (when compared to mobile).
For more great resources, check out Protect Young Eyes!
From Nathaniel Holzman of ProtectMyFamily.Online
Unfortunately, you’re right, incognito mode (in all modern browsers) does prevent parents from seeing the history of the websites our children have visited online. While there are ways to disable incognito mode, each browser and operating system is different. Because of this, the best solution is to track web browsing using tools outside of the web browser.
- If you’re using Windows 10, I highly recommend Windows Family Safety. It tracks (and limits) usage based on each child’s login on the computer and provides weekly reports about the websites the child accessed as well as what software they used and for how long.
- If you have multiple devices/operating systems, and want to track usage across all of them, I’d recommend a hardware solution that filters WiFi at the router. Tools like Circle or Router Limits provide visibility across all your computers.
The biggest drawback for the hardware solutions is that they track usage by device and not individual. So, if you have multiple kids using one device… you’ll only know that that device accessed a website, but not who.
To see more of Nathaniel’s resources, check out ProtectMyFamily.Online.
Thanks Chris and Nathaniel–I’m so grateful you’re willing to share your expertise!
The INTERNAL filter
Ultimately every child needs to develop their own internal filter. It obviously can’t be installed in a few minutes, like other filters. But as you help your child develop their very own internal filter, day by day and week by week, you’ll enjoy these long-lasting benefits:
- The peace of mind that you’re being proactive and not leaving your child to face a predatory porn industry alone;
- A closer, trusting relationship with your child who knows you’re willing to talk about anything and answer any questions;
- A prepared child who won’t be caught off guard without a plan for rejecting pornography whenever and wherever they are exposed to it.
If you’re just getting started, please grab a copy of our Quick Start Guide! The sooner you start, the safer your child will be.
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