Disclaimer: The folks at Circle kindly provided us a security unit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.
Currently, we don’t have a huge need to censor the Internet from our children. They don’t have devices and all screen time is closely monitored. However, we realize it won’t be that way forever. Our nine year old has begun to use the computer for school and has also talked about saving money for a used iPad. We’ve even realized, after chatting with friends who have older children, that we also have to be concerned about our children’s visiting friends and the devices they bring. Enter Circle.
Circle with Disney (which is actually square shaped) does so much more than just turn the Internet on and off in the home at designated times. We’ve had ours for two months, so I’ve figured out how it works best for us. To be clear, this is not a router, it’s a device that connects to your router and acts like a gatekeeper to all devices on your network. Even visiting devices. (take that sneaky friends!)
One of the best features is that everything, including the initial set up, is controlled through your iPhone app (Android is supposed to be coming soon). That’s it. No need to set up different time limits and restrictions on each device. If you already have Kindles with FreeTime, you know the headache I’m talking about. Imagine having to set that up four times on four different devices.
Doing the initial set up for all devices can still be time consuming depending on how many devices there are in the household. An added bonus is that you receive push notifications on your phone anytime a new device is added to the network. If your children’s friends are over, you can easily add any restrictions to their devices the moment Circle sends you a notification.
Set time limits on internet-connected activity
- Set a daily overall time limit
- Set a daily time limit for a particular app, website or category of content.
- Set a bedtime
Circle is designed so that each person in your house has a profile with their device(s). From there, you can set different limitations, for instance: you can allow three hours of online activity a day, but only 30 minutes of that can be YouTube and no activity after 8pm. You can also choose to block YouTube altogether or even the newly-debated app, Snapchat. The limits are across all devices so that an individual can’t do 30 minutes of a game on their iPad, then jump to their computer for more.
Content Filtering + Ad Blocking
You can use pre-set content levels for each family member, from Pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult or None. From there, you can customize to meet your needs. For example, with the “Kid” level, Club Penguin, Disney and Minecraft are allowed, but if you prefer to disable Minecraft, you can do so with the flick of a switch. Depending on the level you choose, it will block websites, they provide a long list of categories. You can even spare yourself from content that you don’t want to see. If there’s a site that’s blocked but is acceptable for your child, you can manually grant access to that site.
In the Content Filter settings, you can turn on Google safe search, YouTube restricted mode, and Ad blocking. This didn’t cut out ads 100% but it’s definitely better than nothing.
The reporting under “Insights” shows you how long each family member spent online each day, week, and month, going back one month. You can see which sites were visited, and which sites were blocked by the content filters. From there, you can easily unblock a site, if needed.
Pause the Internet
Yep, that’s right. You can pause the internet for everyone, or for a certain family member, or for a certain family member’s device. So if Bobby has been told to come to the table for dinner, and won’t turn the Netflix show off, you can pause the Internet for Bobby. There are a variety of ways to assign devices so you can just pause the Internet for all the kids in the house or parents as well if you catch yourself checking your phone during family game night.
For $100 and no subscription fee, I think Circle with Disney is well worth it. We’re looking forward to seeing the device staying current and get better with time (we’ve noticed a few App updates since we’ve received ours). The app is super easy to use and I love the ability to pause the internet on the fly without having to know how to set up a guest network on my router.
However, there are some things you need to know before purchasing your unit. The Circle does not give any control for games that don’t rely on the Internet (Wii, Xbox) so parents must mindful of time spent on these activities. For those of you who have kids with iPhones, Circle does not control or account for 3G/4G activity. Circle Go is in product development and is supposed to be the solution for this problem. Additionally, Circle does not have control over phone calls, texts, or social media activity.