My kids are online, and I’m sure that many of your children are as well. There are a great number of choices when it comes to monitoring Internet activity for your home. I have implemented solutions for clients and their families that work, but weren’t simple to implement, monitor, and manage. While it’s become easier as technology improved, a new product has captured my attention as an easy-to-use solution for monitoring your family’s Internet activity: Circle with Disney.
Available at a number of retailers like Amazon for $99, Circle with Disney is simple in design and implementation. A small cube, once plugged in and configured on your Wi-Fi network, gives parents control over the Internet in their home. Paired with an app for your iOS device (an Android version is in the works), it gives parents a simple interface with which they can monitor and maintain the Internet usage in their home.
Setup is easy, requiring a power outlet and your Wi-Fi network information. Once configured on your Wi-Fi network, the app allows you create an account that will require an email and phone number that accepts text messages. Then, you can create profiles for your family. Ideally, you should create a profile for each family member you wish to manage, maybe even one for yourself. While creating your first profile, you can poke around the settings and see the various options available to you.
Filtering is easy to implement with five levels: Pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult, and None. Each of these can be customized with toggle switches to allow and disallow various types of content. Time Limits are a great way to control how long your kids are spending online or on a certain platform (Minecraft, YouTube, Netflix) or category (Social Media, Games, Blogs). BedTime allows you to cut off their Internet connectivity between certain times, so they can’t sneak some playtime in after hours. Once configured, these limits apply across all their devices, so switching from their iPhone to their iPad to their computer doesn’t help them escape that limit.
To accomplish this level of control and keep these filters across all your children’s devices, you’ll assign these to the profile you create for them. Most often, a simple name will suffice for identifying which device belongs to whom, but sometimes the name alone won’t work, so MAC addresses are also available for identification. You can easily view all the devices that are connected to your network and rename them for easier identification. For smart devices like TVs, Blu-Ray players, and other Internet capable devices, I didn’t assign to a profile and chose not to filter them as to not cripple their functionality.
Once I had everything configured and the kids sufficiently upset about the new filtering applied on them, I explored the monitoring capabilities of Circle with Disney. Insights presents the activity for each profile by day, week, and month, allowing you to see where they visited, how long they spent there, and filter out that site if need be. The default filters do a good job, but having the ability to filter further to specific sites with a simple click is really handy.
Perhaps the most powerful feature of all the Pause button. With a simple click, you can turn off access for the whole network, an individual profile, or even an individual device. Time for dinner and the kids aren’t coming? Pause the internet and they appear, as if summoned by magic. Circle will also remind you if you’ve paused someone, just in case you forgot to turn them back on. Or maybe you didn’t…
With the challenges of filtering the vast amount of information, both bad and good, that’s available at your children online, it can be hard to be a parent. Circle with Disney is the first technology package that I’ve found that makes this easy. If you have a child online, an iOS device, and a Wi-Fi network, then invest $99 in Circle for Disney and make your parenting a little simpler.