Circle (with Disney) – a Definite Yes

Set limits on the amount of time your kids spend on electronic devices, filter their content, and even pause the wi-fi in your home during dinner.

It’s possible with a simple device called Circle (with Disney) – well, it looks simple and is simple to use, but it’s actually very complex. Thankfully some brilliant techy folks designed this for the rest of us, and I applaud them.

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I was not asked to review Circle and I bought it with my own money, but it’s such a great device, I want to tell you about it.

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Last week I opened the box and set it up. I tend to be a little anxious about techy things, and I’m happy to report it literally took me seven minutes to get it operating, with very simple instructions and diagrams to follow.

I then set up a profile for each family member, a guest profile (for kids who come over with tablets and phones), and even a profile for our television, since we exclusively use Netflix, Hulu, and our Amazon Firestick.

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Imagine my surprise when Circle immediately identified 25 devices in our home – twenty-five! 

The trickiest part of using Circle was identifying devices and assigning them to their owners. Ebenezer and Wogauyu were easy, they each have an Amazon Fire tablet. I have an iphone and a laptop. Russ has a phone and laptop. As a family we have a desktop computer and an iPad. The older kids have all kinds of devices, Kindles, laptops, iPhones, and iPods.

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Each person has their own profile on Circle and I can set individual filter levels (pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult, None), and time limits.

Time limits can be for the length of usage for a device, or time spent on individual sites, such as, 30 minutes on Facebook and 45 minutes on Minecraft.

I can also use Circle to set a bedtime that shuts down access to wi-fi for a child’s devices for the night.

Best of all, I can pause the wi-fi in our home during dinner with literally one touch on the app on my phone. In fact, I can pause the wi-fi even when I’m away from home.

I could go on and on, but let me give you the pros and cons I’ve identified so far:

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Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Circle is super easy to set up and start using.
  2. Did I mention I can control internet use on my family’s devices even when I’m away from home?
  3. No monthly subscription fee, there is a one-time cost of $99 to purchase the device.
  4. It can be customized for each family member; it’s not one size fits all.
  5. The level of detail is amazing. I can set the amount of time each child spends on different sites, see the sites my kids are accessing, and even look at a history of my own usage and make changes.
  6. Circle literally blocks all pornography from your home – it is stopped by Circle before it even has access to your devices. Given the large percentage of kids and tweens who accidentally encounter pornography online, this is a huge benefit.
  7. Circle provides information that enables us to start good conversations. With older kids, we want them to learn to make good choices about the sites they access and the amount of time they spend online.  For example, “Hey, I noticed that after school you were on Facebook for two hours. Was this a light homework day?”
  8. An unexpected side benefit is that I see my kids’ friends coming and going from our home as they show up on my Circle notifications. That can also be a good conversation starter.

Cons

  1. If I had to name a con, it would probably be figuring out how to identify the devices in my home. It takes a little trial and error. Most of you will not have as many people (and devices) in your home as I do, so hopefully it won’t be quite so crazy.

I’m sure some of you are wondering if this will work when your kids aren’t home. 

On May 23, 2016, Circle launched Circle Go which takes all of the settings your kids’ devices have at home, and extends them to 4G LTE and any other WiFi network they join. You must own the Circle device to subscribe to Circle Go. 

Circle now works on all ios and Android devices (after initially launching with only ios capability).

I was not paid in any way for writing this review, however, if you purchase Circle using one of the links in this post (including this one), I will receive a small commission, which is pretty great for recommending a product I like so much.

As for me, $99 is a small price to pay for the peace of mind Circle offers.

Lisa
[updated 5/28/16]

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

52 Comments

  1. @Momofmunchkins
    February 23, 2016

    Interesting. My kids don't have their own devices yet, but I'm going to keep this in mind for when we do buy them. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      That’s a good plan. Please share with your friends who do have older kids. Thanks!

      Reply
  2. Emily
    February 23, 2016

    I assumed we'd want this for when we have kids but you're making me want it now! I think it would be good For me to just not have the option to go online/use my phone at some times.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      Emily, I like it even for me because I can look at how I'm spending my time online. It's amazing how quickly I can log house on Facebook or Instagram.

      Reply
  3. Christy Melton Blakeley
    February 23, 2016

    I've been looking for something like this for my 14 year old!! I love that it's not a monthly fee! Thank you, thank you! I will be purchasing!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      Great, Christy. I hope you like it too!

      Reply
  4. Blessed
    February 23, 2016

    I'm cracking up that you listed "blocks porn" under "cons." ; )

    But otherwise, thanks for sharing this new device! It sounds really intriguing!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      That wasn't a con! I have to go back and look at my post!

      Reply
    2. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      I just edited the post to make it clearer – thanks for reading it with fresh eyes and giving me feedback. I appreciate it!

      Reply
      1. Emily
        February 23, 2016

        Omigosh. I am SO curious to how on earth it was written first!! Wish I'd seen that lol!! xoxoxoxo

        Reply
  5. Christa
    February 23, 2016

    We could definately use this in our house. Keeping track of time across devices is next to impossible. I also like the fact that anyone using the internet in our home, even friends, are protected. After researching it, I was dissapointed to find that at this point the app to control it is only available for ios so those of us with Android phones will not be able to use it from our phone. It looks like they are working on an Adroid App for later in 2016.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      I hope it comes soon too, Christa.

      Reply
      1. Renee
        February 25, 2016

        Can you control it manually without an iPhone?

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          February 28, 2016

          I don't know the answer to that since I use it on my phone. I'm sure you can ask them on the site.

          Reply
  6. Tom Vanderwell
    February 23, 2016

    Lisa – does it control the amount of time spent on particular apps? Like "I want my 15 year old to spend no more than 20 minutes on GTA or 20 min on Kik. ?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      Tom, yes it does. I can set a time limit on any app for any device. For instance, I might set 30 min per day on FB and another 30 on Instagram for one of the girls, and 45 for Minecraft for one of the boys.

      Reply
      1. Jessi
        February 24, 2016

        Are these continual? Like if you get 30 minutes on facebook, once it is opened 30 minutes counts down?

        Or can I check facebook 30 times for 1 minute each before I'm locked out?

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          February 24, 2016

          I think if you log in and out, it keeps track of your time during actual use. We haven't experimented with that yet!

          Reply
  7. Molly Kitsmiller
    February 23, 2016

    Wow – this sounds like exactly what we need. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      I think you'll like it, Molly.

      Reply
      1. Molly Kitsmiller
        March 1, 2016

        Just ordered it through your link. Looking forward to setting it up!

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          March 2, 2016

          Thanks, Molly.

          Reply
  8. MRK
    February 23, 2016

    Can you set a total time usage allowed per user? As in, my son has access to a computer, a tv, and an ipad. If I want a total limit to the day for him but don't care how he divides his time between the devices, can I do that? Also, something I have found as a weakness with other systems is that they log time on a computer unless the user chooses to log out of his account. If the person clicks (in Windows) "switch user" it still,counts the original user as having access. My son prefers "switch user" to "log off" because it remembers the tabs he had open in his browser that way. If you "switch user" on a windows computer, will thenoriginal user still be supposedly using their time? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      I'm not sure about your questions. Maybe you would have to set the total time for all devices and then have his wi-fi access pause at the end of that time, so he can switch devices within his one hour however you set it up. I haven't figured out the other question yet. It definitely requires experimenting. You do have a complete history of each person's wi-fi use so if your son has a maximum of one hour per day, you can see how he is spending it and if he is going over. This allows for good conversations, especially with older kids.

      Reply
      1. cathylank
        February 24, 2016

        My friend who has Circle says that she is able to give her son an hour of screen time daily and it keeps track among his iphone, ipod and Xbox and then shuts them off when done. Not quite sure how she sets that up but I can ask, and also not sure about the second question!

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          February 24, 2016

          Thank you, Cathy! Yes, I think you can set a total time, but also a maximum time on certain sites.

          Reply
  9. cathylank
    February 23, 2016

    Synchronicity! A friend of mine got Circle (which I had started seeing ads for on Facebook, probably because of all the searches I do for "how to limit xyz on your child's phone") and loves it! We have a kind of draconian system in place right now with no cable, no computer, no wifi that the kids know about — but my older daughter is changing schools and I think we are going to have to add more technology. I will definitely be installing Circle when we do!

    Reply
  10. cathylank
    February 23, 2016

    Also, I don't know if you can answer this, but does Circle track how much time is spent texting/messaging? Or does that just fall under general wifi use?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      I'm not sure, I just sent a message to a friend who has had it longer than I have!

      Reply
  11. Emily B
    February 23, 2016

    Does it work when your kids are out of the house, or only when they're home? We have phones, tablets, and laptops in our house, and all of them leave the house daily.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      Right now it only works on your home network. Circle Go is coming out this year and that will keep your settings in place even when the devices are out of the house.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer
        February 26, 2016

        Do you think that it will be an additional cost?

        Reply
        1. Lisa Qualls
          February 28, 2016

          If you're referring to Circle Go, I think it may be a subscription and I assume there will be a fee. I'm hoping it won't be too much because I plan to subscribe.

          Reply
  12. Ruth
    February 23, 2016

    Hi Lisa, I have been looking at this for our family as well. Does it tell what exact sites are visited? Is it possible to block porn sites that are maybe accessed in another language? I know that is an odd question, but just curious as to how that could possibly work. Thanks so much for your review on this.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 23, 2016

      The History gives a record for every site visited by each person. I think it would block porn sites in other languages because it blocks "mature content" and it is so sophisticated that I think it would. However, I don't know for certain. It would be a question worth asking if you purchase one.

      Reply
  13. Lisa Qualls
    February 23, 2016

    I think you'll love it Cathy, and it will definitely be good to put it in place before you have loads of devices.

    Reply
  14. Ellen
    February 24, 2016

    $99 is a pittance, if it keeps pornography out of my home! Thanks for the recommendation and review!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 24, 2016

      I totally agree, Ellen!

      Reply
  15. Renee
    February 25, 2016

    Wow, I missed this review when you first posted it, so glad I found it!
    $99 sounds like a wise investment, if it protects my kids. It is astonishing, and sickening, how easily anyone can stumble upon inappropriate things.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 28, 2016

      It is so heartbreaking what kids can literally stumble on. I'm so thankful to have Circle.

      Reply
  16. Cherith
    February 25, 2016

    Is it able to show search history within apps? For example what a child searches/views on Instagram?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 28, 2016

      Yes, I believe so, but it would be worth asking them.

      Reply
  17. lisa02152
    February 25, 2016

    Do you have to disable safari or use a circle specific browser?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 28, 2016

      It works with all of our browsers.

      Reply
  18. Sandy
    February 25, 2016

    Oh this looks like JUST the thing we are looking for!! Do you find that it blocks regular google searches? We have found with other filters that they filter EVERYTHING which makes everyday googling a headache!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 28, 2016

      It only blocks at the level you set – so in our house that includes all "mature content." I've had to turn it off a couple of times to search for something, but it's literally one click on the app to pause the settings.

      Reply
  19. Leigh Ann
    February 28, 2016

    I wanted to come back and let you know I haven't stopped thinking about this since you I read it from fb this past week. My husband and I have been talking about it and then this weekend, our church's Family & Marriage Comm held a Family weekend seminar with a terrific speaker – this morning, he spoke about the dangers of technology and up on the screen, there was the circle! So, just wanted to pop over and let you know we purchased it today, using your link. Thank you again for sharing this. We have 4 children, 3 bio and 1 recently adopted from Eastern Europe, she's 16. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you sharing this … and the Lord's timing as He prompted you to share it.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      February 28, 2016

      Thank you so much for sharing that with me, Leigh Ann. I hope it gives you peace of mind and good protection for your family. Thank you for using my link.

      Reply
  20. Robin Douglas
    March 3, 2016

    Lisa, thanks so much for taking the time to write this explanation and review. My kids' devices and trying to police them literally make me feel like a crazy woman some days. With eight of the kids still at home, the number of electronic "gadgets" is ridiculous! I was going to wait until after tax season to order, so that Stan could set it up, but it looks like maybe even I could handle it. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      March 3, 2016

      You can definitely handle it, Robin. It takes time to figure out all of the individual settings for each kid, but it's worth it. Let me know if you decide to order one!

      Reply
  21. Julie
    May 26, 2016

    We recently bought a circle upon your recommendation. It’s wonderful and takes the place of several different programs and a lot of monitoring time! Something I didn’t expect at all was the notification I received earlier this week that a new device was using our network. Turns out a teenager had invited a guest over when mom and dad were away (not okay) and we were able to address this with our son. I’m so thankful for the added benefit of monitoring who accesses our wifi, especially when we aren’t home. So grateful for your blog! Julie

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 26, 2016

      Julie, that is a really interesting side benefit. I see kids coming and going from our network all the time, even when we’re not home – you’re right, it’s kind of handy.

      Reply

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