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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Pros & Cons
- Circle is super easy to set up and start using.
- Did I mention I can control internet use on my family’s devices even when I’m away from home?
- No monthly subscription fee, there is a one-time cost of $99 to purchase the device.
- It can be customized for each family member; it’s not one size fits all.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?”
- 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.
- 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.