Does your family need a VPN?

Before I was familiar with VPNs, I used to think they were super specialized pieces of digital kit for hackers and dedicated torrenters - and sure, they certainly come in handy for those folks, but the truth is that anybody can use a VPN.

Does a family need a VPN?

In 2020, the average household had more than 9 internet-enabled devices, constantly being used to access emails, social media accounts, and all sorts of (potentially dodgy) websites. A VPN can remove some of the innate risk that comes with... well, just being on the internet, and make it a safer place for kids or teens who aren't as security-savvy. One VPN subscription can also unblock a ton of movies and shows in a few clicks!

Privacy

Visit the homepage of any VPN provider and you'll see that privacy is a focal selling point - and the best VPNs come with customizable tools to keep your family's connections secure, whether you're at home, on holiday, or on the commute.

👁‍🗨Conceal your IP address

All of your internet-enabled devices will have an IP address used to identify it online, and this IP address can give away some pertinent personal information - like what operating system you're using, the internet service provider (ISP) you're with, and even your browser.

A VPN assigns you a new IP address when you connect to a server. So, the sites you visit won't be able to determine your original one, and instead only see the IP address associated with the VPN - which you'll actually share with other users to further boost your privacy. As a result, you and the family will see fewer targeted ads, as it's much harder for sites to keep tabs on what you're all doing.

🔒Rely on encryption

Of course, the best way to stay secure on the net is with a VPN's encryption. Your VPN acts like a protective layer between you and the internet - first you connect to your VPN, then you connect to the net, and all via the VPN tunnel. Any data sent or received through this tunnel is encrypted, too, which basically means it'll be unreadable (and scrambled) if anyone decides to take a peek.

No cyber-snoopers, no ISPs, and no governments will be able to log your online activity, though you might wonder why this is such a big deal if you and your family aren't running an illegal operation out of the home. What if you're just using the web to watch stuff and stay connected to friends and family? Well, it's about your right to digital privacy, and it's about being able to access the web as freely as was intended - minus all the prying eyes who might otherwise be monitoring your family's activity.

You'll see a lot of VPNs using AES-256 encryption, which is the same sort of encryption used by the US government to secure their most sensitive data. AES-256 encryption is pretty much impossible to breach with a brute force attack. It'd take ages to crack, and I mean ages - like literally millions of years!

🌎Stay safe using public WiFi

You'll often see long lists of "free" WiFi connections when you're out and about and eager to stay connected, but have you ever noticed that a shop or eatery has two available connections? It could be coincidence, or it could be the work of a cybercriminal - they just love making fake access points with convincing names, hoping that you won't suspect a thing.

Connecting to one of these hotspots is just a bad time all around. The cybercriminal could have access to your logins if you input them during your session, as well as other usernames and passwords. They'd also be able to see every site you visit and anything that you download.

That's not ideal - obviously - and grownups can have just as much trouble identifying these fake hotspots. If your family's devices are covered by a VPN's all-encompassing encryption, though, these threats are nullified before they can do any lasting damage.

Best VPNs for Families

Every single VPN really, really wants you to think that it's the only viable option - the best and most secure service - and that's rarely going to be the case. It's all subjective! I've listed the best VPNs for families below. A lot of VPNs use the same protocols and encryption, but some implement it all better, and some go the extra mile to keep you and your family safe - with audited no-logs claims or additional privacy features.

One of the most well-known, trusted, and recommended providers in the game - ExpressVPN back up the hype with reliable features

  • Pricing

    From  $6.67 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

ExpressVPN knocks it out of the park when it comes to implementing robust security measures. It relies on standard AES-256 encryption with a RSA-384 handshake, and offers a choice of OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and IKEv2 protocols (amongst others) - as well as its own Lightway protocol, a lighter, faster alternative. ExpressVPN is a no-logs provider that's brought in a third-party to audit the claim, and being based in the British Virgin Islands means the service is under no obligation to retain your data.


The service handles all DNS requests on its own self-hosted servers, an automatic kill-switch prevents IP address leaks, and dedicated obfuscation servers are available for families battling censorship in China. You'll be able to install ExpressVPN on any device in the house, and the family can share up to five simultaneous connections.


Other likes:


If you're looking for premium-feeling security that comes at a low-cost price, then Private Internet Access is perhaps the perfect provider.

  • Pricing

    From  $2.69 - $9.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu

Private Internet Access (PIA) is an incredibly easy-to-use service - it's as simple as installing the app and hitting that “connect” button. Once you do, your family's web sessions will be secured by AES-256 encryption and a RSA 4096 handshake (as well as a ton of encryption customization options). PIA offers OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, and has had its no-logs policy audited by a third-party - which should reassure anyone concerned about its US headquarters.


Up to 10 simultaneous connections are permitted, and the service has apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android or iOS devices. These platforms all come with their very own kill switch, which keeps your original IP address from leaking in the event the VPN connection drops.


Other likes:


Unblocking Content

Encryption is a huge part of what makes VPNs so useful, and I wouldn't be doing my job as a privacy advocate if I didn't list it first! However, a lot of folks get interested in VPNs when they hear that they can unblock US Netflix - and a single subscription can help you and your family get the most out of any other streaming service you're subscribed to. Let's take a closer look at how!

📽Streaming

Streaming services like Netflix offer different stuff in different countries. The things you can watch in the UK might not be available in the US - and vice versa - and it's all thanks to territorial licensing agreements that Netflix strikes up with copyright holders. Netflix then puts geo-restrictions in place to keep people from accessing shows that haven't been licensed in their country. And that's all a bit rubbish, really. You're essentially paying for a reduced selection of what the service actually has to offer, and might not be able to watch certain shows or movies just because you live in the "wrong" place.

But a VPN has it sorted. It can "spoof" your location and grant you access to all that restricted content - and all you have to do is connect to a server in a country where it is available. Then, you can browse that location's library of movies and shows as if you were actually there, even if you're really sat on a couch in Croydon. If you just want to go ahead and start unblocking shows, then I'd recommend ExpressVPN .

🔇Censorship

A VPN's unblocking power can do more than just facilitate a Netflix binge! You'll also be able to unblock websites that were previously restricted - either thanks to network administrators at school or work, or as per the rules of local censorship measures enforced by the government.

A VPN keeps you connected to friends and family, and keeps you up to date with world events, even if your government would rather you didn't.

It's also worth mentioning that a VPN comes in handy for families on holiday. There'll be times where you might need to access a site as though you were back home - it might be because your usual chat apps have been blocked, or because your bank would get suspicious of a login attempt from overseas. Just connect to a VPN server back in your home country and you'll have no trouble - the sites you visit will be none the wiser to your vacation.

Conclusion

As convenient as the internet is, it's also riddled with risks - malware, hackers, and snooping ISPs. It can be a daunting task to keep one device secure, let alone a whole family's worth - but a VPN is by far the best way to get it done with a minimum of disruption. Your family's web sessions will be far more secure, you'll all have access to a broader selection of content, and folks from around the world can stay in touch despite oppressive censorship.

Like I said earlier, it's all very subjective as to whether a VPN for your family is necessary, but I'd recommend giving it a go. With the money-back guarantees offered by most providers, you'll even be able to take a service for a spin without committing to a lengthy subscription - so you've got nothing to lose, and only peace of mind (for you and your family) to gain!

FAQs

Hopefully you now have a better idea of the difference a VPN could make for your family, but if you fancy learning more, head on over to our ultimate privacy guide for the nitty-gritty details. In the meantime, I'll go over some of the most common questions I get about VPNs on the daily!

Written by: Hannah Hart

Originally hailing from Wales, Hannah Hart graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a 1:1 in Creative Writing, going on to work as an Editor across a number of trade magazines. As a professional writer, Hannah has worked across both digital and print media, and is familiar with collating news pieces, in depth reports and producing by lines for international publications. Otherwise, she can be found pouring over a tarot deck or spending more hours than she'll ever admit playing Final Fantasy 14.

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