Parental Control Application LittleBrother

LittleBrother is a simple parental control application monitoring specific processes (read "games") on Linux hosts
to monitor and limit the play time of (young) children. It is designed as a client server application running
on several hosts and combining playing time spent across these hosts but it also works on a standalone host.

When the application determines that a user has exceeded her play time it will terminate the configured
process. Usually, the user will get several spoken notifications (using the
LittleBrotherTaskbar) before she is actually kicked out so
that she can log out gracefully in time.


The following screenshots show the web frontend of LittleBrother. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.








Continuous Integration Status Overview

Status Master Release
Test Coverage
Snyk Vulnerability Known Vulnerabilities Known Vulnerabilities
Codacy Code Quality
Code Climate not available

Note: The vulnerability status is derived from the Python PIP packages found in requirements.txt.


LittleBrother has the following features:

  • Any number of users can be monitored.

  • Each user can have a specific set of rules defining the permitted playtime.

  • Rules can be adapted to "contexts", such as the day of the week and/or a vacation schedule (currently only
    the German schedules are supported).

  • Play time can be restricted to a time window (from, to).

  • A maximum play time per day can be defined.

  • Users can be forced to take a break after a certain maximum session time.

  • Users can be forced to wait for a minimum break time after their activity.

  • Any number of Linux client hosts can be monitored.

  • There is a master host with a history of the activities of all users. This master host checks the rule sets and
    prompts the client hosts to terminate processes if required.

  • The master host offers a simple web interface for viewing the user activity over a configured history length
    (e.g. 7 days) and an administration page to dynamically define rule exceptions for a configured number of
    days into the future.

  • The web application can be run behind a proxy so that it will be accessible from away allowing remote
    administration after receiving calls from young users begging for more play time.

  • There is a helper application (LittleBrotherTaskbar) to
    display the remaining playtime of a monitored user and speak the notifications.

  • The application has international language support. Currently English, Italian and German translations are provided.
    Users are invited to provide translations for other languages.

  • Downtime of a server during playtime (e.g. due to hibernation) is automatically subtracted from the play time.

  • In addition to the time spent on Linux hosts the application can also monitor activity time on other devices
    such as smart phones or tables. It takes advantage of the fact that most modern operating systems put devices
    in some kind of power saving mode while they are not being used. This way, the network response (by pinging) can
    be used to determine the activity on those devices. In contrast to the Linux hosts, the application
    will not be able the terminate the activity. The play time, however, will be added to the overall playtime and
    hence will have an impact on the time allowed and also on the break time rules on the Linux hosts.

  • As of version 0.3.12 LittleBrother is able to use ProxyPing to ping
    devices behind firewalls provided the tool can be deployed on a Debian server behind the firewall.

  • As of version 0.3.13 LittleBrother slaves will terminate local user sessions if they cannot reach the master
    process for a certain time (defaults to 50 seconds). This ensures users cannot suppress being logged out by
    pulling the plug.

  • As of version 0.4.0 LittleBrother provides an administration feature to easily extend the current computer time
    or grant computer when the usage would normally be prohibited. This is called a time extension. During a active
    extension all other restrictions (maximum time per session, time of day, and maximum time per day) are deactivated.
    Time extension can even extend into the next day making long night session possible. However, any computer time
    actually spent during a time extension will contribute to the overall time played in the course of a day.

  • There is a Docker image available (currently for the slave only) which makes it really easy to run a slave on a
    Linux host with a Docker daemon available.

  • The application uses voice generation to inform the user over impending logouts. Also these spoken
    messages are internationalized. Optionally, users can be notified using four different popup tools. Note that this
    functionality of the LittleBrother application has been replaced by the LittleBrotherTaskbar.


The page gives a detailed description of the architecture of the application.

Tested Distributions

So far, LittleBrother has only been released as a Debian package. For other non-Debian based distributions
there is some basic support using a generic installation script.
See this page for details.

Distribution Version Architecture Comments Most Recent Test
Ubuntu 18.10 amd64 See pip3 issue 03.JUN.2019
Debian buster amd64 This distribution (buster-slim) is used as base image for Docker 01.JAN.2020
Debian 10.3 (buster) amd64 Feedback from a user as regular install with Mate desktop 05.MAR.2020
Mint 19 amd64 03.JAN.2020
Debian stretch armv6l 23.MAY.2020

Quick Install (Debian Package)

This guide will take you through the steps required to install, configure, and run the LittleBrother application
on your system. This guide works both for master and slave setups. For setting up a slave there is a second option
using Docker. See the Docker page for more details.

YouTube Videos

Thumbnail and Link to Video Duration Content Related Versions
little-brother-0_3_1 16 min Install LittleBrother Debian package, edit configuration file, add user, test functionality LittleBrother 0.3.1 on Ubuntu 19.3
little-brother-0_3_1 14 min Install LittleBrotherTaskbar pip3 package, register desktop service, test functionality LittleBrotherTaskbar 0.1.9 on Ubuntu 19.3

Download the Software

The application is available as a Debian package
from the release directory at SourceForge.
The latest build is available from the master
directory. Install it as you would install any other Debian package with

dpkg -i PACKAGE.deb
apt-get install -f

Note that the second command is required to install missing dependencies since dpkg does not run a dependency check.
Instead, it will return with an error which will then be "fixed" by apt-get.

After installation use

systemctl start little-brother

to start the application right away. The application will
successfully start up provided that the default port 5555 is available on the host. You can check the success by trying
to log into the web frontend.

Configuring the Application (Mostly Optional)

The default setup will fit most first-time users (except for the password). The following table contains
various additional aspects that may require additional configuration.

Aspect Default Setting Alternatives Reference
Admin Password User admin with password test123 Use LDAP for authentication and authorization See "Setting Admin Password" below
Database backend File oriented database sqlite Full fledged database such as MySQL dor MariaDB See Advanced Configuration
Web frontend port 5555 Any other available port See Advanced Configuration
Web frontend base URL / Any other path See Advanced Configuration
User registry /etc/passwd Predefined users and UIDs or LDAP registry See Advanced Configuration
Master slave setup Use only a master host Use any number of slave hosts See Advanced Configuration
Mapping UIDs UIDs are synchronized across all hosts Each host (group) can have different UIDs See Advanced Configuration
Scanning Interval Every 5 seconds Any other interval See Advanced Configuration
Reverse proxy setup No reverse proxy Run little-brother behind a reverse proxy (e.g. nginx) See Advanced Configuration
Docker Support Slave is installed as Debian package Slave is run as Docker container See Docker.
Prometheus Support Not activated Activate Prometheus server port and provide run time statistics See Operational Monitoring.
Network Tempering Detection Automatic logout of monitored users after a network downtime of 50 seconds Set a different time out See Advanced Configuration

Setting the Admin Password

For the time being setting the admin password is the only standard configuration that still requires using an editor.
See this issue.
You have to be root to follow these steps (e.g. use sudo):

  • Use your favorite editor to edit the file /etc/little-brother/little-brother.conf.

  • Find the setting admin_password in the section [UnixUserHandler].

  • Change the password.

  • Save the file.

  • Restart the application by issuing:

    systemctl restart little-brother 

From now on the new password will have to be used to access the administration pages.

Using the Web-Frontend

You are all set now. It's time to set up users to be monitored and optionally devices. See the
Web Frontend Manual.


So, you went through all of the above but LittleBrother does not seem to work? Maybe this
troubleshooting page can help you.


The application LittleBrother is far from perfect. Some major caveats are listed here and/or in the
issue list on GitHub (see here).

  • Every once in a while processes fail to terminate even though they have been killed by LittleBrother.
    In these cases the user will still be regarded as logged in although he/she is not. Usually this can only be
    solved by trying to kill the processes again using the master user. Database eloquent users may try to
    delete/correct the incorrect process time entries.

  • The web server only responds to HTTP requests. This is probably always OK for communication between the
    slaves and the master in local area network. If the master host is to be accessible from the internet it should
    be put behind a reverse proxy handling the HTTPS termination (see below).


The application uses the PIP package Flask-Babel to provide internationalization for the web frontend. Currently,
the following languages are supported or currently in preparation (in the order they were made available):

Flag Language Locale Status Translation provided by
Flag USA English en Up-to-date Marcus Rickert
Flag Germany German de Up-to-date Marcus Rickert
Flag Italy Italian it Revision 86 Albano Battistella
Flag Netherlands Dutch nl Revision 63 Simone & Lex
Flag Finland Finnish fi Revision 63 Isakkii Kosonen
Flag France French fr Revision 86 Albano Battistella
Flag Turkey Turkish tr Revision 63 Selay Dogan
Flag Russia Russian ru Revision 63 J. Moldawski
Flag Japan Japanese ja Revision 63 Arik M.
Flag Bangladesh Bangla bn Revision 63 Rownak Jyoti Zaman
Flag Thailand Thai th Revision 63 Busaba Kramer
Flag Denmark Danish da Revision 63 Erik Husmark
Flag Spain Spanish es Revision 63 Ruth Wucherpfennig-Krömer
Flag Croatia Croatian hr Revision 63 Incognito
Flag Lithuania Lithuanian lt In preparation N.N.

A revision number in the status column denotes that all texts up to that revision have been localized.

Your help with translations is greatly appreciated. Please, contact the author if you are interested in providing
a translation. You do not necessarily have to clone this repository or be familiar with Python to do so.