The pandemic has brought lots of changes to our house and our family’s screen time. Perhaps at your house as well? Where tech time was once saved for weekends in our house, suddenly school was online. With the libraries closed, reading was online. With limited access to activities and social gatherings, seeing friends was online. Suddenly, it seems like my three kids were spending the WHOLE day on screens. With all this time on screens – and much of it without supervision since I was working too! – I need tools to ensure my kids were doing what they should be online and safeguards to prevent them from coming across things they shouldn’t. Enter Circle.
Meet Circle, a parenting control & filter app, that helps you monitor, limit, allow and ultimately oversee your family’s screen time. Circle offers both the Circle Parental Control App that lets you manage just mobile devices ($80/year) or Circle Home Plus that manages mobile devices and all smart devices on your WiFi – whether a phone, tablet, TV, laptop, desktop, or gaming device (Circle Home Plus includes access to the app for 3 months, 1 year or unlimited depending on the package you buy).
Why I Chose Circle Home Plus
Before Circle Home Plus, I relied on Apple’s Screentime feature after setting up my kids’ iPads under a Family Sharing plan. This allowed me to set downtimes, app limits and block certain general content categories like explicit songs or R-rated movies. But it didn’t allow me to see exactly what website my 10-year-old was on when he was supposed to reading but looked suspicious. Or shut off access to an app or device as a whole. And thanks to the pandemic, now my kids were Zooming on iPads while working on laptops and Chrome books and suddenly Screen time wasn’t enough to manage all these devices at the same time.
I researched a lot of different options before I decided on Circle. I liked that it could manage all the tech devices in my house with one app and that the app itself was user-friendly. Circle also gave me better control over which kid had access to which content on which device. The Circle app is already set up to help you create limits and filters on over 100 different popular apps with the ability to create custom filters for any other app or website.
Setting Up Circle Home Plus
Setting up Circle Home Plus is simple. The first step (do this before you buy!) is to make sure you have a compatible router. Then just plug the Circle box into your router, download the Circle app and in less than 5 minutes you can be up and running. You will need to download the Circle app onto devices like phones and tablets. Devices like gaming consoles and computers utilize Circle’s management via WiFi. On the app, you’ll need to create profiles for each kid and set up various devices with the Circle app, assigning kids to the various devices that they use.
What Circle Home Plus Can Do
The Circle app has a lot of personalization options while still being user-friendly. I love that I can:
- turn on preset filters for Kid, Teen, Adult or None that I can customize with specific access or limitations
- decide time limits for particular apps, bedtimes, downtimes during the day, and reward time
- see app usage and websites visited
- block, allow or unmanage a particular website all from the app on my phone
There was a bit of a learning curve getting the family to adjust – the first week or so, we had issues with kids not being able to access particular websites that seemed harmless but it was easily enough to allow those websites or unfilter them as needed. The website history is sometimes a bit wonky as it catches background traffic or third-party website tools, but it has provided lots of opportunities for discussion with my teen and tween about how the internet works, why certain sites may be doing tasks in the background, and why there is a need to filter out inappropriate content at all.
Plus I can also see when a certain someone is on Clash of Clans instead of the educational app he’s supposed to be on….
Visit MeetCircle.com to learn more about how Circle Home Plus can help your family monitor screen time, filter out inappropriate material and build a healthier relationship with technology.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Circle for providing a device for this review. Opinions expressed are my own.