Managing Your Family’s Time on the Internet

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In today’s world it’s very easy to get addicted to spending time staring at our phones and tablets. In fact, you are probably reading this post now on your phone. I know I’m guilty of this. Constantly checking my email, Facebook, watching Netflix and having the need to be connected with the device in the palm of my hand. And the same holds true for our children. We introduce our kids to iPods, tablets and phones at such an early age they are just as or more addicted to them as we are. So how can we solve this problem or at least limit “phone time” in our lives?

Well, we could get rid of all the mobile devices in our homes all together. Not gonna happen. We could be super parents and keep our kiddos busy with crafts and activities 24/7 so they have no need for mindless activity on their phones. Not realistic. We could battle with our kiddos and try to enforce time limits on the devices manually. Doable, but so much work. I wish there was a device, to control the devices to solve this problem for me. In walks Circle With Disney!

So what is Circle?  The device claims it will bring balance to a family’s connected life. Managed through a companion iOS or Android app, it is a tool that helps parents stay informed about their kids’ online activities, setting limits on screen time through every device in the home. This includes smartphones, tablets, computers, and gaming consoles. Circle with Disney pairs with home Wi-Fi and gives parents the ability to filter content, set a bedtime for devices, and even pause the internet. Each users’ profile and settings can be completely customized based on age and parents’ preferences.

Well, that all sounds great, but does it work? And how easy is it to set up and use? I decided to give it a try and find out. I purchased the Circle at my local Target for $99.00 and brought it home to test out. Setup was pretty easy and straight forward. I had to install an app on my Iphone, plug the Circle in and then connect it to my home network. From there I went thru the app and followed the setup guide. It took around 7 minutes to get everything up and running. Their website says 5 minute installation and I’m a geek, so I was a little disappointed. For the parent who is not tech savvy, their might be a little bit more of a learning curve involved in the setup. But overall I give Circle high marks on ease of setup.

One thing I did like was the interface of the app. After you set up each member of your family it takes you to a home screen with each family member.

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From there you can click on which family member you would like to manage. Once in there you can set up filters, pause the internet entirely, set time limits or give rewards.

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The cool thing about Circle is you can set up each user differently. You can even put limits on yourself is you want to! So for my family the biggest issue is YouTube and Netflix. Especially for my 8 year old daughter. I would have to pry her iPod out of her hand and deal with tantrums at times when I tried to end her device time. Now, once designated time limit is up she is blocked with watching YouTube or Netflix. No crying, no trying to chase her around the house. She just puts her iPod down and moves on to something else. This has probably been the biggest benefit of Circle.

Now there are some limitations. Circle works with your in home WiFi network. So if your kiddo actually has a real phone for 4G or LTE access then they could still get on the internet via that. Or if your child goes over to a friend’s or relative’s house with their device they will not be restricted on other home networks. For this there is Circle Go. It’s an additional pay subscription service that will take all the filters and restrictions you have set up and extend it to where ever your child’s device goes.

Summary: I would recommend Circle for families with younger children who haven’t graduated to real phones yet. It provides an easy way to filter, restrict and manage your family’s internet access while on your home network. For $99.00 it’s worth every penny to limit battles, and know that your child isn’t getting into something they shouldn’t.

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