A few weeks ago I saw a Facebook video advertisement for Circle with Disney. With kids ages 12, 14 & 15, it sounded like just what my family needed at home to help us better manage technology usage.
As parents, we have always set limits and parameters for our kids. For some reason lately, these rules seemed harder to enforce. Maybe because we were busier, maybe because we were all exhausted. Whatever the case, we were intrigued by Circle’s promises.
We ordered the product with the specific goal of helping the kids turn in their phones at a set time each night, without the nagging & prodding that typically ensued. What we found is that it did so much more.
NOTE: BTS Maine is not receiving any compensation for this review. We don’t have any sort of affiliation with Circle with Disney. I am simply a parent who, like you, is always on the lookout for ways to parent smarter.
Easy Setup for Circle with Disney
Circle with Disney is actually a square device that connects to your home’s router. The cost is reasonable at $99. Once the physical device is plugged in, the setup took my wife & I less than 15 minutes using the easy to follow instructions that were included.
Web Content Filtering is Good Stuff
With Circle, parents can filter web activity, apps, online games & more. The filter levels include Pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult or None. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that more than one device can be assigned to a family member’s profile and filtered based on this rating. This works out well for kids who have more than one device, such as a phone & an X-Box or a phone & a desktop computer.
Online Activity Insights – Even Better Stuff
One of the most impressive aspects of Circle is the “Insights”. This will give you a very clear view of how your family members are using the internet and how LONG they are online.
Are they spending 4 hours on YouTube watching videos? Are they streaming back to back to back seasons of their favorite show on Netflix? Are they playing X-Box for waaaaayyy tooo long? What about SnapChat, Facebook, Instagram? How long are they on those sites?
We were floored to see the results after only 24 of using Circle. My 12-year-old’s screen time equaled seven, I repeat, SEVEN hours!!!! It was clear that screen time had definitely gotten out of control in our household. And it was time to do something about it.
Getting Back to Basics & Setting Limits
Once we reviewed the time that each child was spending online, we knew it was a great deal more than what we wanted for them. We were happy to see that Circle offered a solution to this overuse: Limits. Time limits can be set in general (e.g. Johnny gets a total of 3 hours online each day regardless of what device he’s on) or can be done by app and/or activity ( e.g. Jessie can spend 1 hour on YouTube, 1 hour for online gaming & 15 minutes on Facebook).
Pausing the Internet & Setting Bedtimes
As I mentioned earlier, the Bedtime shut down is what we originally purchased the Circle for. We are able to set weekday and weekend bedtime and wake up hours. In addition we are able to pause the internet at the push of a button, whether for one device, one family member or the entire home network.
One thing to note here: if you pause the internet there may be a delay in your child seeing this “pause”. My son was watching a video that had buffered enough that he was able to continue watching the video. When he tried to watch another, that’s when he received the “Paused” message.
Another important aspect to note: if they are playing something installed locally on the device (that does not use the internet to operate) the pause will have NO Affect. Circle controls access to the internet only.
If your kids are tech savvy (hint: all kids are tech savvy) then they may find an obvious work around. If a device disconnects from the home’s Wi-Fi and uses its data plan instead, the Circle will have no affect. Those smart little problem solvers will figure this out pretty quickly.
Enter “Cirlce Go”
To solve the issue of kids jumping off the Wi-Fi in order to get around the Circle, Disney offers an add-on called Circle Go. This is a subscription service that costs $9.99 a month and allows you to control the device whether it’s on your local home network or using the device’s data plan. The downside we have found is that this only works for Apple devices. They are promising an Android solution “soon” but it is not available yet.
We Like It
We are happy to report that it has been worth the investment. It has helped our kids better manage their time online, knowing they only have a set amount of time. It has helped us to monitor exactly how much they are using and, if I’m honest, how much we as parents have been using. More importantly, it has provided many opportunities for us to discuss technology usage with our kids in meaningful ways.