If Your Kids Stream Content or Use the Internet, You Need Disney Circle…
Parents regularly ask me about how we handle screen time. Boy, is it hard. Not only do I want to limit the time they spend in a zombie-like trance staring at a screen, I want them to do it safely. About two and a half years ago, my sweet friend, Kristen told me about Disney Circle. I bought one and we have used it since then.
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What is Disney Circle?
“Circle allows your family to manage all of your home’s connected devices. With Circle, parents can now filter online content and limit online screen time as well as set an Internet bedtime for every connected device in the home. Circle can even Pause the Internet and share what kids are up to online. How it Works: Circle pairs wirelessly or via ethernet to your home router and allows you to manage online access for every device on the network: smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets, smart TVs, online gaming consoles, laptops and desktops. 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.” (Quoted from Amazon’s product description)
What can Disney Circle do for you?
- Set daily time limits. This only limits internet time. Offline time is not limited by Disney Circle.
- Filter online content. If your child tries to access a site outside of the parameters that you have set, then they will get a message that they have been filtered. The site that the child tried to access will show up in the filtered history of their user setting on the app.
- Set and maintain an internet bedtime. At a time, set by you, internet can shut off for the whole house, or just certain devices.
- You can pause the internet for the whole house with a touch of a button through the app on your phone. Or, you can just pause it for devices assigned to a particular family member.
- You can monitor online usage in an instant through the app.
- You have the ability to easily award extra screen time for the day without changing the master settings. I love this feature because, when I have to change master settings to add screen time to my kids’ kindle fires, I forget to change it back!
How does Disney Circle work when devices are away from home?
Disney Circle only monitors content and screen time when connected to your home Wifi. It does not cover other networks or cellular service. There is a monthly subscription service, for $4.99/month, that can cover up to 10 devices. It is called Circle Go. It is not a stand alone product. You must already own a Disney Circle Device. We have not used Circle Go, so I cannot review this service, but we are considering it.
What do I love about Disney Circle?
One of the biggest reasons I wanted a filter for our house was you tube. We stream all of our television services using Roku devices. My kids love you tube for a variety of uses, but one day an innocent search for dog training videos, from the tv in our rec room, led to an explicit image pertaining to a sexual position… Ugh. Yuck. My boys were horrified and thankfully one of them told me. I wanted to block you tube from all of our screens except for our main home computer that faces outward into an open space and our main living room television. There is a lot of good content on you tube that I don’t want limited, but I do want accountability and rules for you tube use.
- I can set time limits for internet use.
- I can stop internet use to a certain device.
- I can block certain sites like social networking until my kids are mature enough to handle that responsibility.
- I can create specific restrictions for each child.
- Once the device is purchased, there are no additional fees for in home network monitoring and filtering. There are a lot of filter services that can be installed but many are limited to a set number of devices. I have not found that Circle limits the number of home devices.
- If my kids’ friends bring devices to my house, that I can filter those too while they are at my house. Now if they have cell service, that goes out the window, but if they want my wifi, they have my restrictions.
Whoops. That didn’t go as planned.
Not everything about Disney Circle has been flawless. We have had a few frustrations with using Circle.
- Sometimes my kids’ homework assignments get filtered. My kids’ teachers often assign a video to watch or website to visit. There are times that Circle won’t let them access that content. In that case, I often have to change settings, or send them to the home computer with different filter settings to complete their assignments.
- The ability to look at specifics of internet use is limited. The filter keeps them within the boundaries set. But, if I want to look at a specific website that shows in the history, I find that often I can’t. I think this is because often the sites that show up are running in the background or something like that. Obviously, this is not my expertise. An example is below.
- I once paused the whole house internet when I was leaving one of the kids home alone. This child had a lot of homework and I was going to be gone for about 90 minutes. I wanted to be sure that homework got done without digital distraction. What I didn’t realize, until I tried to call to check in is that our web based phone service was also paused. Whoops!
- Our wireless printer does not connect with devices unless hardwired now. There may be a fix to this, but I have not invested the time to figure it out. To print from my phone, I have to disconnect from my home wifi and join my wireless printer network. We keep the printer hardwired to our main home computer. If the kids need to print something for school, they have to log into their chrome accounts on that computer.
- The Circle device is supposed to connect wirelessly to your network. It has a battery backup, so the wireless connection ensures that kids can’t just disconnect or unplug Circle in order to get around the filtering. Our device worked wirelessly for awhile and then stopped. I don’t know why except that when I contact support, I was told that Circle struggles to maintain connection with certain routers. It is simple to connect it to our router with an ethernet cable, but should my kids want to disconnect it, they could easily do so now. Good thing they don’t read my blog yet….
Even for the flaws, I highly recommend the purchase and use of a Disney Circle device. It has been an extremely helpful device in helping to limit my children’s time and exposure online.