How to Tell if Your Teen is Browsing Adult Sites

Teens these days are incredibly tech savvy, especially when compared to generations past. It can seem incredibly difficult to keep up with the tips and tricks kids are learning today. With every wall you build, you’re creating a challenge for a teen to overcome.

So how do you stay one step ahead of someone who was literally born into a world of technology? Do you spend every waking moment living and breathing tech? No, you really don’t have to. You do, however, owe it to yourself to keep at least somewhat updates as to how things work, and what your teen might be using to access the Web.

Below are some tricks to help you stay informed about where your teen is going online, and how to tell if they might be accessing sites that aren’t age appropriate.

Signs and Symptoms

Let’s start with the obvious. You can’t always know where your teen is browsing to. While you might have your home network locked down like Fort Knox, that doesn’t mean that your teen can’t find a good connection elsewhere. Many of the techy tips out there (and in this article) will only be beneficial on machines and networks in your control. It’s important that you are able to identify some of the signs that your teen is up to something.

Do They Browse the Web with the Door Closed?
Closing the door provides a barrier that allows for plenty of warning before the contents of a computer screen might be discovered by parents or guardians. If the door can’t be locked, the mere act of closing it gives someone an extra second or two to react, switch or close windows, and situate ones self to avoid suspicion.

Have they Rearranged their Room so the Monitor Faces Away from the Door?
If you decide to allow your teen to have an Internet connection in their room, have they arranged it so what they see can’t be seen by someone passing by? This is a common action taken by teens that don’t want their parents prying into their personal life, but it could also be a sign that they’re doing something that they might not want you to know about.

Do They Get Nervous and Uncomfortable When You Use Their Computer?
People in general are terrible at hiding their emotions. Human lie detectors look for tells that indicate that someone is telling a lie, but in general it’s much easier to tell when someone is suddenly more nervous than usual. You live with the teen, and know how they normally act.

If you suspect that they are doing something they shouldn’t, but don’t want to outright accuse them, you could take a moment to “show them something” on their computer. Perhaps find a viral video or perhaps an informational website that you think might interest them. Go to their computer, while they are in their room, and pull that site up for them. Do they object to you using their system to pull up a website? If so, there might be more going on than they want you to know about.

Is Your Browser History Periodically Erased?
Perhaps the most obvious sign that someone is using the computer to look at something unapproved is that your browser history is suddenly gone. Perhaps not entirely wiped out, but you know the teen has been on the computer for the last several hours and yet there is nothing in the history to indicate they’ve been anywhere at all.

Private browsing is quickly becoming a popular way to avoid being detected going to sites they should be. This would explain a gap in the history. Some browsers also allow you to remove the past hour, day, week, month, or year of history with a click of the mouse.

Browser History

Below are some keyboard shortcuts you can use to quickly access a browser’s history.

  • Internet Explorer – Ctrl+H
  • Google Chrome – Ctrl+H
  • Firefox – Ctrl+H
  • Opera – Ctrl+Shift+H

The browser history will tell you where (and often when) various sites are accessed. A single access case might be the result of clicking an ad or following a malicious link, but repeated visits to the same site could be a sign of intentional use.

Google Search History

Your teen probably has an account of their own, but there are times when Google search might be initiated through the browser without realizing that your account is still enabled. Take a moment to check your Google search history against what you actually search for. If you see some suspicious searches, it might raise an alarm for you.

Keyloggers and Network Monitoring

I’m not a fan of keyloggers, but there are some applications out in the wild that will allow you to keep tabs on what your teen is typing into the keyboard. This could tell you where they are going without alerting them to your tracking. There is a fine line between being a concerned parent and violating trust. It’s up to each parent to determine where this line should be drawn for themselves.

Network monitoring is a little less intrusive but still quite useful. Chances are, every computer connected to the Web (outside of mobile phones) goes through a single router to get a connection. Your router may have IP logging abilities, which can give you a rough idea of where people on your network are browsing. Alternatively, network-enabled sniffing software and parental controls are available that can help you even more.

I haven’t personally used either of these methods outside of an enterprise setting, and I wouldn’t recommend dropping the type of money required to run enterprise monitoring software to keep track of your teen. Still, it’s another avenue out there.

DNS Cache (Windows Method)

This trick is a little less obvious, and a lot harder for teens to hide. Your computer stores a list of IP addresses connected to various domain names. This list is generated as your browser requests DNS (Domain Name System) records from your ISP’s preferred DNS host.

To access this record, you’ll need to launch the Command Prompt by typing CMD in the search field located in the Start menu at the lower-left corner of your Windows desktop. You’ll see an icon that looks like a black screen with C:\ printed on it. Right-click CMD and select Run as Administrator. A new window with a text prompt should appear.

If you want a text copy of this list, you can do so by typing the following command.

ipconfig /displaydns > c:\dnshistory

This will export a text file to your C drive which you can access by going to My Computer or simply selecting Computer in the Start menu and navigating to C:\.

Open the file and select Notepad as the program you would like to use to view it. This file will contain a list of domain names accessed by the computer. If the DNS cache has not been flushed recently, this list can be quite long and difficult to understand. It’s probably best to flush the DNS a day or two before checking it so you can get a short list. Flushing the DNS now and then is also a great way to get over certain sites that may appear to be more sluggish than usual.

You can flush the DNS cache by typing the following command in the Command Prompt.

ipconfig /flushdns

This should help you get a leg up on exactly what sites are being visited on your computer. Keep in mind though, that no method is absolute or foolproof. It is possible that an advertisement or sneaky leak found its way into your teen’s search results, making it appear as though they were actively browsing one site when the reality is they were only exposed to a file hosted on the domain. It’s usually better to reconfirm suspicions before jumping to conclusions.

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • http://wogan.me Wogan

    In my opinion? If your teen is browsing adult sites, he’s being misinformed about the nature of the content, and should be educated by the parent/s, not spied on.

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Matt Ryan

      How will a parent know what their child is going through if they don’t take a proactive step here and there? I noted in the article there is a fine line between good parenting and violating trust. The purpose of this article isn’t just adult content, though that happens to be what more people are searching for these days. Think about the impact this type of knowledge might have on a parent concerned that their child might be being bullied, or worse, being the bully. I’ll address these issues later this week.

    • Natasja

      I use my router to block keywords and certain sites and Family Safety is also pretty good. The fact is all teenagers are going to browse adult sites at one stage or another whether it be on their phones or at a friends house. Make peace with it, it is going to happen. That does not mean I will make it easy for him or condone it. Can you say you didn’t when you were a teenager? My son is now almost 18 and I`ve learned that there are certain things that are normal and that a mother really doesn’t WANT to know everything…
      I make sure that they are save I block sites and talk to them a lot about respect

      • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Matt Ryan

        If it weren’t for my parents being a little more proactive than I would have liked, my life would have turned out very different. Instead of blogging about technology, I’d probably be in an early grave or scribbling my thoughts on the walls of a jail cell. Parents make all the difference in the world, and you sound like a good one.

        • TTPKacey

          Commented earlier, already had a bad opinion about you, now you’re on the level of those satire anti-christian athiests that made that fake forum for a fake church to make christians look bad.

          • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

            What does religion have to do with anything?

          • TTPKacey

            It doesn’t. I’m referring to my respect level for you is around the same level as the satrical (spelling) athiests that made the group.

    • Edwin

      I agree. Raising your children should not be a tech-war. A good conversation is much more effective.

  • Daniel Sawvel

    Parents need to use OpenDNS for their home network or if they’re teen have their own computer, change the DNS default address to the OpenDNS address.   You can specify kind of websites are off limits or allowed.  Check it out.

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Matt Ryan

      Interesting tip!

      • http://twitter.com/writerlisamason Lisa Mason

         I love OpenDNS and have several children in my home who use the Internet. Only one is of age to consider visiting such sites, really and we have had discussions about why certain content is not appropriate. If a page is blocked, I inserted a nice pretty picture of my face. :p And if they want to access that site, they need to tell me the URL and why they feel they should have access to it. OPenDNS is great because you can blacklist and whitelist individual domains as well as categories. In some cases, I have made exceptions or temporary exceptions. I agree with your advice here Matt. I don’t feel that I should censor my children but rather teach them why certain content is inappropriate at this time in their life and when they are adults paying for their own Internet and computer, they can make their own decisions about what they browse but I think that our lessons as parents will still have an impact.

    • http://my.opera.com/geekgirlfri/blog/ Melinda P

      I agree, and use OpenDNS at home – pushed by my router via DHCP. It displays a nice message when a site is blocked (which can be customized if you create an account with OpenDNS) that tells which category caused the site to be blocked, and refers them to their “administrator” – in this case me, the parent.

      [/soapbox=on]

      IMHO, anyone who allows their children complete unfiltered access to the Internet isn’t practicing good parenting.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001982145705 Satoshi Nakamoto

        “IMHO, anyone who allows their children complete unfiltered access to the Internet isn’t practicing good parenting, or any parenting, when it
        comes comes to the online world.”

        Don’t worry Melinda P, it’s no longer possible to get complete unfiltered access to the Internet when CISPA is ready…… :/

        I don’t really understand how a lot of women actively support censorship. It’s easy for you to install it, but it’s also easy to bypass it (I knew how to bypass DNS & other stuff, when I was ~10…). Also: every type of effective censorship blocks a lot of useful websites too…

      • TTPKacey

        Oh really, interesting opinion.
        IMHO, anyone who thinks that good parenting is defined by their opinion and that if your parenting goes against their opinion in any way makes them a hands-down bad parent is a complete moron. You need to learn that age does NOT equal maturity, as can be proven by the author of this article.

  • Liam Egan

    to be honest i am 14 and i have my room set with the monitor facing away from the door for privacy. nobody really wants there private life to be invaded.

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Matt Ryan

      Nope. No one does. There’s a thin line between being a good parent and invading your child’s privacy. The trick is learning where that line is, and doing your best to respect it.

  • Kyle Polansky

    People like you are going to ruin the internet as we know it. This is exactly what the US government is trying to do to us.

    For example, I’m a teenager and do almost all of these steps for other reasons:

    Do They Browse the Web with the Door Closed? - yes, my room stays cooler that way, and I don’t have to deal with other people in the house making noise, or my noise annoying others in the house

    Have they Rearranged their Room so the Monitor Faces Away from the Door? - no, however they are far away from the door to avoid glare from the windows.

    Do They Get Nervous and Uncomfortable When You Use Their Computer? - yes! With all of the viruses and stuff that my other family members get makes me uncomfortable when they use their own computers sometime. I’m fine if they are using my servers, as they have restricted access to them, and can only do basic tasks, such as DNS lookups, reading from AD, etc.

    Is Your Browser History Periodically Erased? - yes. A large browser cache can lead to slow downs. While I don’t clear the history every few hours, I would say I make it a goal to do basic computer cleaning every 2-4 weeks.

    Google Search History – I haven’t really had a use for this service, so I keep it disabled. I do however sync my open tabs with Google Chrome, which allows me to pick up a session if I’m signed into my Google Account.

    Keyloggers and Network Monitoring – This is one of the stupidest idea’s someone could possibly come up with. I’m fine with tracing network packets for debugging, or keyloggers for macros (which is a terrible way to macro), but it’s a possibility. The hardware at my house is already slow enough (most of it is only 100MB/s) so it would be very annoying to put more overhead on the networking devices.
    DNS Cache – I clear this all the time. There are lots of times when I switch/add IPs for different computers, and flushing the DNS is an easy way to force update the cache. I could always use the IP, but DNS names are easier to remember.

    If you were to say website blocking software, this is a terrible idea as well. Sites such as Facebook are blocked, and they recently blocked Google Play, which I use to read my school books. When you are trying to limit use of the internet, you are usually breaking it in some way or another.

    • Raymond Fischer

      lol, I don’t let anyone in my family touch anything of mine when it comes to computers or any type of technology. I let my sister n law borrow a laptop once and when i got it back the screen was just hanging there, and i tried to at least turn it on.. It wouldnt, she some out broke the pin where the power adapter plugs in to…I was upset, but lucky it was an older laptop. But still, i dont let anyone tough my electronics. They are mine and I payed a lot of money for them. I take care of my stuff. . 

      • Andrew Butler

        I Agree, I don’t let anyone touch my electronics either.

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Matt Ryan

      People like me are going to ruin the Internet… 

      Let me try to hit your points as I can. You have a lot here, but considering you’ve been someone I’ve communicated with quite a lot on the Web, I feel I owe you an explanation of a least a few of them. 

      First, the owner of the computer should have the right to control what is and isn’t done with it. In a parent’s case, they have every right to restrict and monitor what happens on their computer and/or network. They’re the ones that have to pay the fine if their teenager gets busted pirating movies, so ultimately I have no problem with it.

      Second, there is a huge misconception as to the connection between history size and browser performance. Your cache might have an impact, but the history file itself is pretty tiny.

      Third, you seem to be upset that you’ve been blocked from some sites.

      People like me, technology bloggers that are pro technology in virtually every way, are not going to ruin the Internet. You’ve read enough of my articles (and commented on them) to know that I have a very pro-freedom approach to just about everything. This article was simply an answer to a question we receive fairly often here at LockerGnome.

      Thanks for reading. ;)

      • Kyle Polansky

        Sorry, I probably could have re-worded some of my comment. I just get upset about certain things that people do with their computers/networks, although everyone has the right to do what they want with their stuff.

        At my house, I own most of the computers, and all the switches and routers besides the one that connects the internal network to the fiber, which as you mentioned, my parents are nice enough to pay for.

        However, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the point of website blockers. At my school, they are intended to keep students away from downloading viruses, and away from distracting websites like social networks or gaming websites. However, like I mentioned, it blocked me from reading a book, because it classified the Google Play domain as one that also distributes free software. I find it funny that on the flip side, I can access Google+ just fine, as well as other websites. I would also like to mention that one teacher doesn’t have a problem with us using any of these sites (for example, Google Music for non-instructional time). If the teacher says it’s ok, and it’s not illegal, then I don’t think these sites should be blocked. I know that these filters can be tweaked and you can add whitelists, but for the average person that reads this article, they probably won’t modify the defaults.

      • http://zagorath.wordpress.com Zagorath

        I don’t think you’re going to ruin the Internet, but I do think this was a terrible post to make. The quality of the post, if it had to be made, is very good, but I really don’t think it should have been done.
        There was a story on Reddit just a few days ago about someone who was kicked out of their home (or some similar punishment) for watching gay porn, when in fact they hadn’t watched any porn at all. The person who this happened to said it was because their parents had been reading articles just like this one, that describe “symptoms” of children watching porn that can, in *every* case, be due to something completely innocent.

        I just don’t like people seeing what I’m doing, even if I’m innocently reading an article like this one here, or browsing cat videos on YouTube, or doing schoolwork. For this reason (also to keep the cool air in), I keep my door closed, and I switch to a blank tab when someone enters. I can’t even continue to do work on the computer if there’s another person in the room. I don’t have my monitor face away from the entrance, but if it was easy for me to do, I would, for this exact same reason.

        Deleting browser history may not speed things up, but it can create a lovely placebo effect, and is a reason one might erase their history frequently. Even more importantly, all major browsers now have some form of incognito mode, so what reason would a tech-savvy teen have for deleting history to keep privacy, anyway?

        As for the parent having the right to control what is and isn’t done with the computer, I’m not sure I completely agree. There’s an unspoken trust between parents and their kids, and if parents go snooping by using keyloggers and the like they’re breaking that trust. If they want their kids not to be looking at porn, they should first make sure that they are setting the right example (telling a kid porn is wrong, when you yourself view it is completely hypocritical), and then have a good talk with their children about the matter. The relationship should be based on trust, not spying.

      • TTPKacey

        aaaaaaaand there goes your credibility. ”
        People like me, technology bloggers that are pro technology in virtually every way…” I’m a first time reader of this site, and this comment has made me lose respect for it. Having a job where you blog about technology does not make you an expert. Actually knowing half the shit you say you do is what makes you an expert.

    • oscargecko

       Keyloggers do not tie up network traffic. And Network Monitors don’t have to tie up network traffic. And, the government trying to control a house and a parent trying to control their own house is not a fair comparison.

  • http://twitter.com/Harold Harold

    Don’t forget a blacklight!

  • http://twitter.com/rousedesigns Michael Rouse

    Well it’s better porn than drugs.

    • Thigg

      I agree

    • http://my.opera.com/geekgirlfri/blog/ Melinda P

      Since both have a track record of ruining relationships and lives – why do you think this is true?

      • http://zagorath.wordpress.com Zagorath

        Can’t say what was in his head, but an obvious part would be that drugs can literally ruin physical lives.

        Got no source for this, but I’m pretty sure porn is nowhere near as likely to ruin “relationships and lives” in any sense, anyway.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=619986281 Muhammad Bilal Islam

        “track record” my ass, that’s a bunch of feminist BS

        • http://www.facebook.com/kennedy.djimpe Kennedy Krucafix Djimpe

          feminism-isn’t women superiority, it’s women equality

  • Tennisvahagn18

    I think its important for kids to have privacy. you live and you learn, and through some of their mistakes they will learn. Its better in the long run. There is no need to confront your child about anything like that or the entire situation will be awkward.

  • http://twitter.com/cal920c Calvin Ing

    right… cause my parent’s would totally know how to use command prompt… plus, who’s stupid enough to only go on an “inprivate” window? you always have facebook going in the background… or twitter….

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Matt Ryan

      I know how to use a command prompt, and I’m old enough to have a child heading into adolescence.

      • http://my.opera.com/geekgirlfri/blog/ Melinda P

        Ditto – and, as a parent, I am all for helping parents who may be less tech savvy than their kids, so they can be better, more effective parents.

        (goes looking for list of mom bloggers I read so I can offer them a link to this article…)

      • TTPKacey

        because you do this kind of thing. He’s not saying you don’t. Learn to read. “cause my parents’ would totally know..”
        “cause my parents”
        “my”
        Learn.
        To.
        Read.
        The majority of parents are computer illiterate. When I had problems with my Vista laptop crashing every couple hours my dad put in speculation “you have too many things installed on it.” Implying hard disk space, as long as there’s a decent amount (10gb or more) left empty, affects performance at all. I fixed the problem by installing Windows 7.

  • dfurst05

    Here’s a tip. Ask them. If you’re a good parent, you should have a good enough relationship with your child where you can be upfront about these things. What’s so wrong with letting your children look at adult sites? If you get them their own computer, they can do what they want with it. If it gets a virus, and the machine is found to be busted because of it, they can pay to have it fixed and learn a very important lesson in internet security. As long as your child understands that they need to respect people, then it’s fine if they need a little something to entertain their desires with.

  • ‘Tis Moi

    Hi Matt,

    All good tips- all true, actually. I have a 12 & 17 yr. old. The older is my good-cop, the younger is my gypsy (the one to watch). The younger has her PC in the family area so I can keep an eye on her. Yes, she acts pretty nervous because she’s usually up to something- lol. It’s how she is. She knows that I will not tolerate history erasing or anything like that. So, we have lots of conversations & arguments- but she never has to wonder where I stand on certain things. Will this stop her from doing or seeing stuff she shouldn’t when she’s somewhere else? I hope so- but all I can do is instill & explain my beliefs to her- I cannot force it.

  • http://MatthewSabia.com/ Matthew Sabia

    Excellent post Matt. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=619986281 Muhammad Bilal Islam

    If you put this much effort into catching your kid on pr0n, there is something wrong with you. Let them enjoy themselves as long as they’re not making it painfully obvious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001982145705 Satoshi Nakamoto

    “How to Tell if your Teen is Browsing Adult Sites”

    This is the worst article I’ve ever seen on lockergnome.com. It basically means, that you don’t trust your son or daughter. Those “Signs and Symptoms” might be true for some teens, but imo the best way would be to ask your teen about it and openly talk about sexuality and stuff.

  • http://www.youtube.com/ steven

    Kyle, you are smart. :O

  • Drake

    You can always use a Linux distro from a flashdrive to bypass all of this. The more obstacles there, the more easier it is to just find loopholes and easy fixes. Use tor for private browsing and linux with your own laptop.

  • Kevin Bao

    network sniffers are even better than keyloggers

  • http://www.stealthgenie.com Android Spy Software

    Just
    install StealthGenie in your teen’s cell phone. After this you will see what
    your teen is browsing. J

  • TTPKacey

    While most kids are tech savvy to an extent, as a 13 year old I can confirm that I know maybe three people in my school of two thousand that know what Linux is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kennedy.djimpe Kennedy Krucafix Djimpe

    Agreed