We purchased the The 7 Best Parental Control Routers so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full products reviews.
The best parental control routers will keep your children away from objectionable content while also limiting their online time. Instead of installing software on all of your children’s computers and tablets, parental control routers allow you to set up content filters right at the network’s edge, where they can be easily applied to all of your devices.
Because the internet is a constantly changing world of content, the best parental control routers filter access by categories rather than specific websites, allowing you to set up broad rules and leave the details to the router. Most allow you to set schedules and time limits, and some even allow you to set them for individual services. When it’s time for homework, for example, you can ensure that your children have access to educational sites such as Wikipedia while blocking them from engaging in non-productive activities such as gaming, video streaming, and social media.
Any parent with younger children, or any business administrator who frequently hosts children on their network, should consider the best parental control routers. Check out our list of the best ones to keep your kids away from the internet’s darker corners.
Related: The 5 Best Laptop Computer GPS
Best Overall: Synology RT2600ac Dual-Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router
Although Synology is best known for its popular NAS devices, the company’s RT2600ac router () is a feature-rich router that provides excellent security and parental controls while remaining simple to set up and manage. Best of all, everything is ready to use right away, so you won’t have to pay any recurring subscription fees just to keep your kids safe online.
The RT2600ac is a dual-band Wi-Fi router with a maximum throughput of 2.6Gbps on both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands. Four powerful beamforming antennas provide more than enough range for a typical home while also providing adequate performance for 4K streaming, video calling, and gaming. There’s also the standard set of four Gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting devices that don’t have Wi-Fi or require high throughput. The RT2600ac, on the other hand, comes with not only a pair of USB ports, but also an SD card reader—a feature that’s uncommon on a router—allowing you to easily share your media files with your entire family.
The RT2600ac, like most routers, comes with both a mobile app and a web interface for configuring and managing the router. While the app can handle most day-to-day tasks, you’ll need to dig into the web console for the more advanced features, which are numerous. Fortunately, they don’t get in the way of setting up the router, and even the parental controls are simple to set up, thanks to a tile-based interface that anyone who has used a Synology NAS device will recognize. You can set up general filtering rules for your entire home network, plus another set for your guest Wi-Fi network, and individual profiles for your kids, letting you schedule online time, set time limits, and block inappropriate content based on general categories or specific URLs.
Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AC2600 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 5
Related: The 5 Best External Optical Drives
Best Value: TP-Link Archer AX50 AX3000 Dual Band Gigabit Wi-Fi 6 Router
The Archer AX50 from TP-Link () is a great combination of cutting-edge wireless technology and sophisticated parental controls at an affordable price. It’s not only one of the most cost-effective 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 routers on the market, but it also provides impressive wireless performance for today’s much more common 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 devices, as well as enough range for a small home.
Trend Micro and TP-Link have teamed up to provide a subscription-based HomeCare platform for security and parental controls. The AX50, on the other hand, comes with a complimentary lifetime subscription. This allows you to block websites based on their type and age group, while HomeCare keeps track of all the URLs in each category and ensures they’re current. You can also create profiles for different members of your family, assign devices to each profile, and then apply filters and time limits to all users or just specific devices. For example, you could block your kids from getting online at all with their iPad in the evenings while still letting them use the family computer for homework.
In addition to parental controls, HomeCare includes antivirus protection to protect your home network from malware, as well as an easy-to-use QoS feature that lets you prioritize traffic for things like gaming and streaming. You can even program your device and traffic priorities to change throughout the day. The only catch is that while the AX50 can be configured and managed using a standard web interface, the HomeCare features will require you to use TP-Tether Link’s app. Lastly, while there’s also a USB 3.0 port around the back that lets you share an external hard drive on your network, the file-sharing performance is poor enough that we wouldn’t recommend it for streaming media, although it should be fine for sharing documents or making Time Machine backups.
Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: HomeCare, WPA3, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AX3000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 5
Related: The 6 Best SATA Hard Drives
Best Mesh: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System
Netgear’s Orbi () is still one of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems on the market for overall network performance and flexibility, and thanks to its Circle with Disney partnership, it now also supports some pretty advanced parental controls.
Orbi, as a tri-band mesh Wi-Fi system, will provide solid and dependable coverage throughout a large home, with fast performance in every room. This is accomplished by dedicating one of the two 5GHz bands as a backhaul channel, ensuring that traffic between Orbi units always stays in the fast lane, regardless of the number of devices connected. Because each unit has four Gigabit Ethernet ports, you can use the system to extend wired access to a smart TV or game console while maintaining top performance.
Circle with Disney provides Netgear’s parental controls, which provide a wealth of filters organized by age range so you can easily choose what’s appropriate for each of your children. Not only will you be able to block inappropriate content, but you will also be able to set schedules and time limits for any internet activities you want to allow. This means you won’t have any trouble keeping your kids away from Roblox when they should be doing their homework. The only drawback is that you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription to gain access to the more advanced controls.
Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: NETGEAR Armor, WPA2, Guest Wi-Fi Secure Access | Standard/Speed: AC2200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 4
Related: The 6 Best SSDs for MacBook Pro
Best for Small Homes: Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System
When it comes to plug-and-play simplicity, the Eero Pro () is hard to beat. Unlike many routers, which require you to go through a lengthy and confusing setup process, Eero’s user-friendly app will have you up and running in no time. Not only that, but the app will also allow you to remotely monitor and tweak your configuration.
Eero is a mesh Wi-Fi system that allows you to deploy as many satellite units as you need to cover your entire home with strong Wi-Fi. A single Eero Pro unit serves as both the main base station and router, providing tri-band Wi-Fi and managing your internet connection. If you have a smaller home, this may be enough, but if you need more range, you can add more Eero units, which can be any combination of Eero, Eero Pro, or Eero Beacon. Each Eero Beacon will cover an additional 1,000–1,500 square feet, and the Eero Beacons can be easily plugged into any wall outlet and even serve as nightlights in your home.
The Eero Pro system is also a joy to use for parental controls due to its ease of setup and management. You can create profiles for each member of your family, allowing you to manage your children’s devices. While more advanced features require a small monthly subscription fee, the basic Eero system does allow you to control when your children can access the internet. However, if you choose the Eero Secure plan, you’ll get real-time content filtering, which allows you to block sites for each of your profiles based on categories like adult, illegal, and violent content, as well as malware protection and ad-blocking for all of your devices. It’s a great system, but sadly, it’s also one of the very few routers that doesn’t support the PPPoE protocol used by some ISPs, so if this applies to you, then you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: Eero Secure, WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC2200 | Bands: Tri-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 2
Related: The 7 Best Extended Mouse Pads
Best Add-on: Circle Home Plus
If you’re happy with your current wireless router, the good news is that you don’t need to upgrade to get advanced parental controls. Circle Home Plus () can help you with this. This useful little device is a network add-on that works with most home routers to provide you with all of the benefits of sophisticated content filtering for your children.
Circle Home Plus is a small white cube that plugs into your existing router and uses advanced networking magic to monitor and intercept traffic from your kids’ devices before it reaches your main router. A built-in battery and Wi-Fi support also help prevent ingenious kids from simply unplugging it, and you’ll be notified if this happens even if you’re not at home.
These notifications, as well as all configuration and management, are handled by a companion mobile app, which includes a comprehensive set of preset filters that are conveniently organized into age-appropriate categories and services. For example, there’s a “Pre-K” setting for younger children and a “Teen” setting for older children. You can also create custom filters for any category, as well as time limits for specific websites and services like YouTube and Roblox.
Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: N/A | Bands: N/A | MU-MIMO: N/A | Beamforming: N/A | Wired Ports: 1
Related: The 4 Best VPN-Enabling Devices
Best for Gaming: Asus RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router
The fast-paced world of online gaming necessitates a special kind of router, so if you have a gamer in your family, the Asus RT-AX88U () is the one to get. While its parental controls aren’t as flexible as those on other routers, they’re still plenty to keep your kids safe online, and you won’t have to pay a monthly fee to use them. But, more importantly, it provides the performance needed for lag-free gaming, even over a Wi-Fi connection.
With the latest 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 technology and a powerful multi-core CPU, the RT-AX88U should be able to keep up with most gamers’ demands while still leaving enough room for streaming and video calling. Not only does this router have excellent Wi-Fi range, but it also has an abundance of eight Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back, allowing you to hardwire gaming PCs or consoles for the best possible performance.
The Asus RT-AX88U offers Asus’ AiProtection Pro suite of security and parental controls, which are powered by Trend Micro and don’t require a subscription. While you won’t be able to create individual user profiles to group devices, you will be able to restrict access to adult websites, instant messaging and communication apps, streaming and entertainment sites, and P2P and file transfer services on a per-device basis.
Wireless Spec: 802.11ax | Security: RADIUS Server, WPA2, WPS, 802.1x Authentication | Standard/Speed: AX6000 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: Yes | Beamforming: Yes | Wired Ports: 8
Related: The 5 Best Wireless Travel Routers
Best Budget: Asus RT-ACRH12 Dual Band Wi-Fi Router with MU-MIMO and Parental Controls
While it doesn’t have quite the same power and flexibility as its more expensive siblings, Asus’ RT-ACRH12 () is a great way to get parental controls on a tight budget. With 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5 support and dual-band Wi-Fi that offers up to 1.2Gbps of combined throughput and up to 3,000 square feet of coverage, it’s no slouch in the router department.
This means you’ll have no trouble doing demanding online activities like streaming Netflix in 4K, gaming, or using Zoom and FaceTime to communicate with friends and family. The RT-ACRH12 also includes traditional QoS to ensure that important traffic such as gaming and video calling is prioritized, as well as four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back for hardwiring in high-performance devices.
The RT-ACRH12 uses the same configuration interface as the rest of Asus’ routers, so there will be no learning curve for those who are already familiar with the brand. Most features can also be configured and managed from the mobile app, even when you’re not at home. Blocking specific websites, monitoring your children’s online activity, and setting time limits are all examples of parental controls. Unfortunately, you won’t get Asus’ more advanced AiProtection Pro features on this one, but at this price, that’s not surprising. On the upside, however, you do get the same VPN support as any other Asus router, and it also works with Amazon Alexa, so you can control some of its settings using voice commands directed at any nearby Amazon Echo or another Alexa-compatible smart speaker.
Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC1200 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 4
Related: The 7 Best Long-Range Routers
The Final Word
The Synology RT2600ac is a well-rounded router with solid parental controls and good performance that will meet the needs of most families, but the Netgear Orbi is hard to beat if you’re looking for something with advanced features that can cover your entire home without breaking a sweat.