Family Parenting Technology

Mom, Meet Your New Best Friend – Circle with Disney

Mom, meet your new best friend – Circle with Disney. Managing children’s online presence is getting more and more challenging. Most of us have a story about one of our kiddos stumbling onto a website that was inappropriate. And as our children mature, they are online more and more. The internet is the wild west frontier of today. And it is getting wilder. As the morals and standards of today erode, what is acceptable and easily accessible online expands into frontiers I don’t want my children exposed to. Yet our children are using a multitude of online products, services, and games, and each of these has its own set of safety issues and concerns. Yes, the Internet can be a blessing, especially for those of us who homeschool and whose children use online classes and curriculum. But it also brings many dangers into our homes, and our children need us to protect them!

circle with disney images

 

In most households now, there are many online devices. There are the obvious ones like desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, but also the not-so-obvious ones such as smart phones and gaming devices, just to name a few. In fact, many research companies are now saying each person owns and uses an average of 3.5 online devices in the United States. Managing internet access for this many devices can be a huge challenge, and it has been for my family for years now (and we are pretty technology savvy).

Meet Circle with Disney

If you want the short (really, less than two minutes) version of why you need Circle with Disney, watch this video. For a more detailed introduction to your new best friend, scroll down the page and get acquainted!

 

Mom meet Circle!

Circle with Disney is a tiny little white cube (actually it is only about 3 inches square) that connects to your network via wi-fi. It literally allows you to manage all of your home’s connected devices. With Circle, we can now filter content, limit screen time, set a bedtime for every device, and we can even pause the Internet… bold in this instance does mean I’m screaming at you!! Well… more like excitedly exclaiming that I am officially back in control of the internet in my house (which is saying something with three teenage boys). So, yes!, we can literally turn the internet off… just as easily as we pause a video!! Seriously, isn’t it about time we have this kind of parental control?

 

circle with disney on table with hydrangeas in the background

 

Installation

Are you thinking, “It may be the best thing since sliced bread, but I’ll never be able to install the blasted thing because I’m not technical.”

… NEWSFLASH …

It doesn’t even have a user manual in the box. And no, that should not send you running… it actually should tell you just how easy it is to set up! You just have to download a free app, which walks you through the setup, step by step. They have videos for each and every step for both the Android and iOS platforms.  You can find them all here.

And if you get stuck, they have great online support articles and videos here. Every question we had was already answered!

Circle comes with a Micro-USB cable and USB power adapter plug for charging its internal battery. What that means is the Circle continues to work if the power fails or if it is “mysteriously” unplugged.

System Requirements

Good news on this front! Circle will work on both iOS devices and Android devices, and you can control the connected devices from anywhere. You will need to download the app (which is free) for your operating system:

  • The Circle Home app. Circle’s Home app requires either an iOS device running iOS 8 (or later) OR an Android device running Jelly Bean (4.1) or later. If you are setting up an iOS device, click here to get the iOS Circle app. if you’re setting up using an Android device, get the Android circle device Click here.

And of course you will need to be sure your router is compatible. Ours was… and we don’t tend to have the latest and greatest tech gadgets. 🙂

  • A compatible Wi-Fi router. You can check your router’s compatibility with Circle Here.

Just to give you an idea of the time to allocate to this project, it took us less than 30 minutes to set it up entirely.

Note: You might be shocked to see how many devices you have once you start this process… at least we were!

Configuration

Circle pairs wirelessly with your router and manages every device in your home — including smart phones, tablets, laptops and gaming systems — and provides a single view of the family’s online experience all from an app.  It connects to your router wirelessly, however it also includes an Ethernet cable that can be used if you experience any internet slowdown.  We tried both connection methods and found no noticeable difference, even with 3 active teenage gamers.

You will assign a profile to each device (or leave it as unmanaged). On each profile, you establish the appropriate Filter setting by designating their age level (Pre-k, Kid, Teen, Adult, None). And that is crazy easy… this video walks you through setting up filters. Notice it also is less than two minutes long. I’m not kidding, this product is super easy to implement and set up!

 

App Setup for Parental Control

Now that your Circle sees all your devices, the next step is setting up all the various levels of access for each devise. And THIS is what makes Circle worth its weight in gold! Want to see just how easy it is to set each configuration up? You will do all of this from whatever device you chose to use for your Parental Controls. I have this app on my iPhone.

 

Time Limits

Set daily time limits for each family member on any app, platform, or category you want. With Time Limits you can customize how much time your kids spend on any given platform and even set a total online time for the day.  Setting the time limits is so simple. Watch this very short video to see how to set them up.

 

BedTime

Create a BedTime for each family member and his or her devices. Simply set a BedTime, when the devices will disconnect from the Internet, and an awake time, when the devices will reconnect. It is that simple.

 

Pause

This feature has to be the best feature of all! With the press of a button, you can Pause the Internet, disabling access to a specific device, individual, or the entire home. Seriously! THIS is a game changer!!

Insights

Check out where your family members spend their time online―by platform, category, and website. With Insights, you can see the total time spent online and where, either by day, week, or month!

Teens and Mobile Devices

Circle is amazing for working in your home, right? I have seen just how well it has us covered on our home Wi-Fi. It covers all of our connected devices, pairing wirelessly with our home network, managing all the traffic across our home Wi-Fi network, allowing me to set Time Limits, create BedTimes, and put Filters on any device. But what about those teenagers who now have mobile phones and are not always on my internet?  They have that covered too!  Meet Circle Go. It is actually designed for kids on the go. Circle Go is for every other network. Circle Go takes all of our Circle settings at home and extends them to our kids’ mobile devices… wherever they go. Whether they’re on 4G LTE or a friend’s Wi-Fi, Circle Go keeps Circle’s settings in effect. Have I mentioned what a GAME CHANGER this product is?

Circle Go extends Circle’s settings at home to any network by using a VPN on our kiddos’ mobile device. And it doesn’t matter which cell phone carrier you use!! And if your child decides to disable it, you will know! It sends you a message!!

A VPN (virtual private network) allows Circle to directly manage the traffic and enable time tracking, filters, and every other Circle feature. If you are curious about how this all works and are on the technical side, you will enjoy reading this documentIt is fascinating what technology can now do!!

MyCircle – Each Person’s Individual Dashboard

MyCircle is the final piece to this product suite. It is a personalized dashboard for each member of your family. Each family member has his or her own Circle settings, so each person also has his/her own dashboard! The personal dashboard includes an overview of where that person has spent time online today, a countdown for that person’s BedTime, and what his/her Time Limits are. This is where your family receives notifications… like when someone has reached a time limit or his/her device has been Paused.

 

Final Thoughts – I LOVE IT!

Circle is the device that helps us parents filter content, manage screen time, and stay informed with what our children are doing online. In less than five minutes, Circle pairs wirelessly with your router and manages every device in your home — including smart phones, tablets, laptops, and gaming systems — and provides a single view of the family’s online experience all from an app.

I absolutely can’t say enough great things about this product. It is super easy to set up. I now know where my children are online, what sites they visit, how much time they spend on games, youtube, social media, etc. I have regained control over when we are online and how much time we spend when we do go there. What’s not to love?

Here is the the bad news. You probably already know how your children will react to this level of parental control, and I doubt you will be surprised by the reactions I’ve received from my children. So I will just tell you, my children (three teenage boys) utterly hate this device. Literally – they despise it. Honestly, up until now, it has been easy for them to duck into a quiet room and get on games and camp there. We are a busy homeschooling family, and I work from home, so during those distracted moments, I didn’t know they were on games, yet again. (I’m just keeping it real y’all)

But now.

Now, I have the ability to limit their game time without ever having to say one word to them about getting off the computer. Circle just cuts it off when that category has reached its limits.

 

No more “I’m in the middle of a competitive round.”

No more extra time on games that we did not approve.

No more arguments.

No more delay tactics.

No more excuses.

Oh…. and did I mention it is only $99?

It is worth every. single. penny.

You’re welcome!

Disclaimer:  This reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

About the author

Trish

Trish is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms. She has been married to her best friend, David, for 20 years and they have three sons (ages 17, 16 and 14). Trish is from the coast of North Carolina, but they now live in rural West Tennessee on a 40+ acre farm. She has been homeschooling since 2009 and her homeschool style leans towards a Montessori approach with a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning. They also own a small business that Trish runs from home. Trish’s family is Messianic and they love studying the Scriptures, learning Hebrew and growing in their faith and walk daily. In her spare time, Trish loves to write, work in their garden and can regularly be found trying to learn something new, modeling that learning is indeed a life-long endeavor!

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