The summer is over for us and the fun days of unstructured play replaced by schedules and timetables. Our home got pretty lazy about limiting screen time. Along with swimming and later nights with friends, our five-year-old daughter discovered the wonder of Kindle apps and movie watching right in bed. The Circle with Disney monitoring device arrived for review right in the nick of time. This is actually our first look at anything with parental controls. I must admit I had some reservations about this area of parenting in general. Were we “those parents” who spy on our kid? Did these controls mean we were now living in some sort of Orwellian future devoid of spontaneity, self-empowerment, and creativity? The truth is I can often be a bit dramatic. The easy and fun Circle with Disney has managed to bring me back from visions of a family dystopian future. We kinda love this device.
So what is the Circle? Circle Inc. has promised this device will aide to bring balance to family 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.
It is a cool little unobtrusive device. The design looks like an AppleTV. It was extremely easy to set up.
I used Google Play to download the Android app. There was no software needed. In a few steps, a profile was created for each member of our family. Following the prompts, The Circle was added to our home network. An ethernet cable option is available as well. During this setup, the thought crossed my mind as to its security. Reading more, it promised to have end-to-end encryption. The Circle also has a battery inside so it can not just be turned off by one of the users once they get wise to what it does.
Here are the easy specs:
- WEIGHT & DIMENSIONS
Product Width: 3.25″
Product Depth: 3.25″
Product Height: 3.25″
Product Weight: 1.25 lbs
2.4GHz Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
Wired 10/100 Ethernet
- POWER & BATTERY
100-240v power supply
Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Charges via USB
- SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS
An iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
iOS 8 or later or Android device
Ella is not really at the age where we leave her alone for long to search the web. She doesn’t know about social media or texting with friends. I am sure that as she gets older the Insight options that allow us to see how much time she has spent on a website will come more into focus. The features we were most eager to try were setting bedtimes and general time limits. These can be set using the dashboard feature for multiple users.
The message in the picture above appeared on my daughter’s iPad when her limits and bedtime were reached. I have heard so many stories about kids sneaking their devices under the covers after lights out. These alerts will let you know if there is late night comic book reading or game playing going on. There is even a feature to add a guest in the case of a sleepover.
As much as I want to shut down my husband’s marathon online searches or game playing, The Circle also has the option to add unmanaged adult profiles. These are visible on the dashboard but no with no restrictions.
The Disney partnership comes in with each family member having access to their own MyCircle dashboard with Disney videos and access a lot of content. With a daughter who will routinely want to skip around and see random scenes from Sleeping Beauty or The Muppet Movie, having easy access to this content has been great.
Using the fun Dashboard featuring Disney avatars also allowed me to set each filter for my five-year-old including blocking out apps. I like that I can pause the internet with one touch from my phone while looking at a smiling Fozzie Bear.
After our fist interaction with parental controls, I can report back that the Circle with Disney has given us hope for a less oppressive online future. The experience was easy and even fun. The struggle will no doubt get real as our daughter grows older and her own online world grows as well.
Thank you to our friends at Circle Inc. and Disney for this review device.
- Pausing the internet
- Block ads option
- Bedtime setting
- Adding guests
- It took me a few too many tries after pairing the device to our Wi-Fi to complete the profiles. I am not sure why but the hang time was long and I had to go in and out of the app a few times before it corrected the problem.
Price: $89 at the Disney store, Target, Best Buy
There is a lot of great information on their Meet Circle home page.