Would you like more control over how and when your kids use their mobile devices? Something that would include filtering, time controls and accountability reports? Let me tell you about a new parental controls option called Circle with Disney that I use with my family.
The reason I care about parental controls is that I was only 11 when I saw my first pornographic image. Instantly I was hooked and for 14 years struggled with an addiction to pornography.
Early in my recovery journey I purchased every internet filter I could get my hands on. At one point I was so addicted to pornography that I had to have two or three different accountability software programs running at the same time. It was difficult because what I really wanted was something that could not only track and hold me accountable to my accountability partners, but could also block out material.
During the years of my early recovery, the technology to both manage devices and filter content simply didn’t exist. But now it does! Circle has partnered with Disney to create a revolutionary product that not only filters content but allows you to manage all of the devices, limit screen time, and set bedtimes for every device connected to your home Wi-Fi. If you’re a parent with young kids, watch the video below to find out how Circle with Disney can manage all of the devices you and your kids use.
My top Circle features
There are a lot of great features built into Circle. Here are just a few.
With Circle you can set up profiles for each member in your family. With the click of a button you can create a new profile and assign any Wi-Fi enabled device (Phones, Computers, Printers, TV’s, Tablets, Video Game Consoles) to particular people in your home. Or list them as unfiltered by Circle.
The second someone pulls into the driveway, Circle sends a notification to my phone saying, “A new device has joined your Network” in which Circle assigns them to the Home Profile. I don’t have to stress as much about what guests are watching on their phones around my kids because by default I set my home profile filter to “kids.”
Filter allows you as the parent to filter the settings of each profile. You now can control what apps, and websites your kids are allowed to use.. So each profile allows you to customize what filters you want and they instantly they take effect. It’s a great conversation starter. My 13 year old sister recently came over to visit, and it wasn’t long before she realized she didn’t have access to Youtube, Instagram and SnapChat. After a brief conversation, I was able to easily flip the switch on to give her access to Youtube and Instagram, but I shared with her I wasn’t comfortable with SnapChat (which she understood and had no complaint).
This by far is my #1 feature. The fact that I can pause the internet is great! Simply open the Circle app on your phone and select the user you want to pause and instantly their internet access is blocked. And they can’t get on until you unpause them. (From time to time I even trick my wife and pause her. It’s all good… until she gets me back!) If your kid didn’t complete his chores or isn’t listening to you, you can pause them.
Time Limits allows you to set time restraints on specific apps or websites. So if you only want your kid to play Minecraft for 1 Hour, and be on Facebook for 45 mins, you can set up those time limits. Once the time limit is up, your child can no longer access that app. My wife tried this out as she wanted to restrain herself from how much time she’s on Facebook throughout the day. And man did it work! Once her time limit was up, Circle notified her, and sent me a text message saying, “Mom has reached her Facebook time limit.”
Bed Time allows you to set specific time limits on your devices. With Circle, you can set a specific time of day to cut off access to the internet for all of your kids’ devices. Or for yourself, too.
So let’s say your husband has two phones (personal and a work phone), a laptop, and a tablet. If all those devices are assigned to him, once 10:00 pm ticks around (or whatever hour you’ve decided on), a notification displays and lets the user know their time is up. And they can no longer have internet access. (I probably just made someone’s wife’s day!) Sorry, but not sorry fellas! It starts with us: real men walk in accountability.
Insights allow you to get a bird’s eye view of where your family spends their time online. Whether you want a top level view or a deep dive, Insights allow you to drill all the way down and see what sites were visited and filtered with a time stamp. It’s interesting to see how much time we all spend online. It’s also helpful to be able to track the internet usage from today, last week, or even last month.
It’s almost completely HACK PROOF
I hear it already, some parent is saying, “But my kid is really smart and all they have to do is unplug Circle and they can get online. Or just disconnect from Circle and use their cell carrier service.” Well let me tell you–Circle has already thought of that. If you unplug Circle from the power source, your Circle has a 6-8 hour battery built in. And it will send a notification to the main users’ phones that says “Circle is Offline”. And if your kid is that serious and completely turns Circle off, not only do you get the notification, but they lose all internet connection in the home.
The latest feature that has just launched at the end of May is what’s called Circle Go. Circle Go is a subscription-based service for $9.99/month. And it allows you to have all the same features of Circle when you are on the Go. So let’s say your kid or someone decides to disconnect from your home Wi-Fi. Or you get the really smart kid who says ”I just won’t connect to your internet I’ll use my 4G (Cell Service). With Circle Go you can control them regardless of where they are and if they are connected via Wi-Fi, or via 4G cell phone service.
I haven’t had the opportunity to try Circle Go out myself, but it’s a feature I already like a lot. I just love the fact that when my kid is at a friend’s house, I can control what access their device has. Or pause it all together.
A few known issues
All in all, I highly recommend Circle. Being that it’s a new product, there are still bugs to work out, but I have confidence that their team is working hard to improve all of those issues.
Here are a few of the issues (and workarounds) that I’ve discussed with Circle tech support:
- Circle will often get un-synced with my router. Thus all Wi-Fi enabled devices like my phones, Xbox, and printer are no longer connected to the Wi-Fi. The fix: Turn off Circle, reset the Wi-Fi Router, and then turn Circle back on again. It usually resets and syncs back up, and I’m ready to go.
- It’s been reported that others have issues with Circle slowing down their network. The fix: plug Circle directly into the router via the provided Ethernet cable.
Circle with Disney: The best investment I’ve made
Outside of those issues, Circle is by far the best $99 investment I have made to protect myself and my family from pornography. Don’t get me wrong, it is extremely easy to just become lax and overconfident in Circle and say. “Oh it’s blocking everything I’m good. My kids are safe.” No, Circle is a device that has flaws and it cannot block or catch every single thing.
None of us can fully rely on a single device to do the job of protecting our families. This is just a great tool to help you manage the internet content that comes in and out of your homes.
Besides installing protective technology, it’s our job to have a continuous conversation with our kids about the dangers on the internet. Protect Young Minds offers several resources to help you talk to your kids including guides and a read-aloud children’s book. Check them out!
In closing, what conversations are you having with your family about how they use their devices? Are you helping your kids learn to use the internet for their benefit while protecting them from harm?
Note: Circle with Disney did not provide any free products for this review. If you use our affiliate link to purchase Circle from Amazon or purchase it directly through Circle with Disney, we thank you for supporting our work here at Protect Young Minds.
Felix Gilbert is the Creative Director of XCell, a graphic and web design agency, as well as the founder of Ground Zero, a sex addiction recovery ministry. Felix is married to his best friend of 9 years, Ashley. Together they live in the Washington D.C. metro area with their three kids Jeremiah, Israel, and Jazmyn. They both are passionate about helping people find freedom in Christ, and helping marriages heal from their past hurts and pains. They do this by leading recovery small groups for men and women and through various speaking engagements. Currently Felix is studying with the American Association for Sex Addiction Therapy to become a certified Sexual Addiction Recovery Coach.
[email protected] | @felixgilbert (Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook)