Circle with Disney - Parental Controls and Filters for your Family’s Wireless Devices
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- Manage Every Device: Circle recognizes and manages every device on your home WiFi.
- Software Requirements: iOS 8 or later or Android Jelly Bean or later
- Set Time Limits: Create daily time limits on apps and popular sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
- Filter Content: Set individual filter levels by age (Pre-K, Kid, Teen, and Adult) for each member of your family.
- Discover Insights: See where your kids spend the most time online by app and category.
- Pause the Internet: Pause the Internet for a single family member or the whole family with a single tap.
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From the manufacturer
Set 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.
Set individual filter levels for each family member. Circle has 4 preset age levels and allows for further customization by platform, app, and category. Choose one that matches each family member’s age and interests, filtering out all inappropriate content.
Set a BedTime
Create a BedTime for each family member and their devices. Simply set a BedTime, when the devices will disconnect from the Internet, and an awake time, for when the devices will reconnect.
Pause the Internet
With the press of a button, you can Pause the Internet, disabling access to a specific device, individual, or the entire home. Circle gives you the ability to strongly suggest (wink wink) some on-the-fly family time.
Check out where your family spends 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!
Reward with Screen Time
Give your kids a little more screen time by bumping up the daily Time Limits, extend BedTime a little bit, or disable that OffTime you set up for after school.
Circle allows your family to manage all of your home's connected devices with ease. With Circle, parents can now filter content and limit screen time as well as set a bedtime for every device in the home. Circle can even pause the Internet and share what kids are up to online. How it Works: Circle pairs wirelessly with your home Wi-Fi and allows you to manage every device on the network-tablet, TV, or laptop. Using an iOS or Android app, families create unique profiles for every member of the home and from there, help shape each person's online experience. Additionally, for your kid’s mobile devices there’s Circle Go, which extends all of the settings your kid’s devices have at home with Circle to 4G LTE and any other Wi-Fi network.
Top customer reviews
1) My kids are pre-teen and have access to multiple Internet connected devices in our home, including computers, iPhones, iPads, PlayStation, XBox, etc. With unfiltered Internet they could have been stumbling, even accidentally, into some of the crazy stuff on the Internet. As they get older they could seek that stuff out intentionally. Either way I feel much better knowing that all of those devices are subject to the central filtering at all times.
2) Related to point 1, my kids have friends over and all of their friends have devices. The first question upon arrival to our house is always "what is the code for the WiFi?". By default all new devices on the WiFi are put into the Home category on Circle and filtered from the bad stuff, so I have a lot less anxiety about what kids visiting my house are doing. The next step is to survey all of my kids' friends' parents to see if they are being as cautious.
3) YouTube is the new television. For years all I heard was kids watch too much TV. My kids don't watch TV, they watch YouTube. Circle gives me granular and complete control over both types of Internet usage and Internet usage in general. If I ask one of my kids to do something and they don't because they are on a computer or device, my first move is to pause their Internet with Circle. It works every time.
4) The Bedtime feature works wonderfully and my only issue lately is that too much of my son't middle school homework is required to be done online and he asks for bedtime extensions because he is still finishing the homework. The answer, of course, is that he start his homework earlier, and we are working on that. Who said parenting was easy, right?
Please note that I am not a 'verified buyer' because I bought my Circle before it became available on Amazon but was prompted by Circle to write a review. I periodically update my review to make sure that it is current.
A BIT OF CONTEXT
I previously used a router based parental control called SkyDog. This was by far, the best solution that I have seen,. However, that company was bought out by another company and SkyDog is no longer supported. Since I was in the market for a new router, I decided to buy Circle to augment the very poor parental controls on my new Netgear router. The reason that I mention the Skydog solution is to point out that what I am requesting below is technically possible, has been done before, and can all be done through the router itself. I have a technical background and have been very careful to not comment on anything that I might want but isn't capable of being done through the software on the Circle itself. For example, I don't expect this device - which is network based device - to control offline behavior such as downloaded apps.
Circle is an EASY TO USE but BASIC parental control device. But, I am hopeful that given the support of Disney that they will move to improve the device quickly.... so I am sticking with them despite the list of things that drive me crazy which I will share below. I have talked to the company at their request and I find them to be quite pleasant to work with. They are very open to hearing feedback (you will actually see the company responding very nicely in the comments of this post). However, I am not sure how feedback is prioritized and I am still struggling more than a year later.
Below, I describe what you can do today and what I think is missing. This might be enough for you.
As a parent, I would want to:
CONTROL THE AMOUNT OF TOTAL TIME MY KIDS ARE ON THE INTERNET EACH DAY (TRUE-ISH)
Circle can allow you to group devices together and to set a time limit for internet access for that pool of devices. This works if each kid has their own set of devices but doesn't work for shared devices like a gaming console. To be honest, I wouldn't expect a router based device to determine which kid is using a single device.
CONTROL THE AMOUNT OF TIME THAT MY KIDS ACCESS CERTAIN CATEGORIES OF INTERNET SITES (KINDA TRUE-ISH BUT NOT REALLY)
Above, I mentioned the ability to control the total amount of time. Here I am talking about categories of sites such as Social Media, Gaming, Videos, etc. Circle does allow you to do this. There are many pre-configured groupings and you can set an individual amount of time for each one.
However, each of these time limits work individually. So, you can't say something like "I want my kids to have 90 minutes of "fun" internet time each day which includes gaming, social media, and videos". You would have to give them 30 minutes of each of these which isn't the desired behavior if they wanted to do something like watch a movie.
What is SORELY missing here is an ability to easily group together activities that you consider "playtime" and other sites that you consider "homework". This means that I have to set times for each individual "fun" activity and if I want to change that time, I have to edit each and every one of them individually. (Sigh)
CONTROL MY KIDS ABILITY TO ACCESS SPECIFIC SITES OR CATEGORIES OF SITES (TRUE)
So, as with the time limits, you can control an individual site or category of sites such that they have no access. This works fine for my purposes but my kids are older so I don't really block them from much. In fact the pre-configured settings were really problematic for us (blocked things that we couldn't figure out why) so we set everything to adult and then just shut off a few important items (porn, gambling). Someone with younger kids might find these controls to be harder to manage because they will need to block more.
CONTROL MY KIDS BEDTIME (TRUE)
Ensure that the internet shuts down at a certain time. Although this might seem like an important feature for little kids. It is pretty important for big kids too.... especially since I often end up going to bed before my teens do.
SHUT DOWN INTERNET ACCESS FOR A KID IF THEY ARE GROUNDED AND NEED A NUDGE (TRUE)
With Circle, you can press the "pause" button on the whole house, a single profile, or a single device. This has come in very handy on multiple occasions when I need to "ground" my kids for a couple of hours until they get something done.
CONTROL THE INTERNET EVEN WHEN I AM AWAY FROM HOME (TRUE)
I am often at work or even traveling and I like to be able to see what is going on at home and I need to be able to edit the controls from the road. I have a Samsung device and although it originally had issues with Samsung, it works great now... just like being home.
CONTROL THE INTERNET DIFFERENTLY ON WEEKDAYS VS WEEKENDS (TRUE-ISH)
Circle has had the ability to control the bedtime differently for two blocks of days per week (weekdays, weekends) and more recently has been able vary the amount of time for different activities by weekday and weekend as well. This mostly works. But the UI is bizarre and there are some points of frustration. For example, you can only vary the time controls - you can't only allow an activity on the weekend. The best I can do is to set gaming to 15 minutes during the week (you can't set it to zero).
PROVIDE MY KIDS WITH EXTRA TIME AS A REWARD (TRUE-ISH)
Circle provides the ability to reward your kids with bonus time or even a late bed time. This mostly works except it must be done individually for each and every rule. Again, this goes back to the lack of ability to group together activities into a bucket.
ADD CONTROLS TO ANY ROUTER (TRUE-ISH)
One nice thing about circle is that you can use it with any router... it isn't it's own router. However, sometime after we got it, circle starting hijacking my second router which has been unbelievably annoying. When new devices are added to circle, they go into a central profile. I leave this profile on pause which keeps the kids from sneaking new devices into the house. (Yes, they are that tricky.) Now, even if a device comes onto my second router, it ends up being seen by circle and gets blocked until I move it to a profile with access. This is as designed but not what I would really like.
ENSURE THAT THEY HAVE PLAYTIME AT THE END OF THE DAY AFTER (I HOPE) THAT THEIR HOMEWORK IS DONE. (CAN ONLY DO MANUALLY)
With Circle, Internet time is controlled by day. However, that isn't how the world really works. I want my kids to be focused on homework when they come home from school and then only have 'fun' time later in the day. To get around this issue, I manually reward my kids gaming access after they text me to tell me that they are done with homework. This is cumbersome because I have to individually reward gaming, netflix, social media, etc. (Again, there is no "fun" bucket). Also there is a small issue in that you must have at least some time allocated to an activity already in order to be able to reward it... so they have 15 minutes of each fun activity by default.
INDIVIDUAL SITES ARE HARD TO MANAGE
Circle has a handful of sites that you can control time limits on directly. (For example, you can limit Facebook to 1hr).... However, for other sites that they have not set up.... you only have the ability to block the site or not.... you can't put a time limit on it.
AGE BASED LIMITS ARE TOO INFLEXIBLE
Rather than providing recommended settings for each age group, Circle actually limits the settings that you can set at each age group. So, for example, there are only a few options for control at the pre-k age.... and many at the adult setting. So, in order to get more granular control, I had to set up both kids as 'adult' and then tweak down. It would have been much more secure if I could have only added access as necessary.
I really do believe they are trying to improve things. However, I am curious whether they have the resources of Disney behind them or just the logo.
There are a million other things that parents might want that I didn't mention in the review. However, I believe that the list above is practical and technically achievable.
My two biggest issues at this point are:
- Inability to manage a set of activities in one pool. (I want to group social media, Netflix, gaming, and other activities into a single bucket called "Fun"
- Inability to set a time limit of zero minutes. (This effects rewards and weekday/weekend access)
I'm one of the Founder's here at Circle and can say that we've heard your feedback loud and clear. We really do care about our users experience and want to make it the best possible. Above you have 8 points of feedback and by my estimation we've already addressed two directly and one was already a feature (manage Circle from anywhere). We want to hit all 8! I'd love to chat directly with you to hear about what you'd want to see with each of the points in more detail. Feel free to reach out to me via email anytime firstname.lastname@example.org