Research shows that most parents agree. The problem, of course, is that it’s extremely challenging to teach kids healthy digital habits.
First, the devices are practically rigged against us. Studies show that they can stimulate dopamine release, which short-circuits attention and self-control.
Second, most kids are ill-equipped to self-regulate their relationship with technology. Their brains are still developing, and they lack practical experience.
Third, family conflicts often break out when parents are forced to constantly intervene with their kids’ screen time. Kids have meltdowns when parents take their devices away. Parents get angry. Eventually, these conflicts can damage the parent-child relationship.
And then there’s all the porn and violence on the internet that’s still so hard for parents to block.
The makers of the devices, the publishers of the apps, and the owners of the social networks don’t do much to support parents. It’s not really in their short-term interests.
The default parental controls on most devices are very basic and limited. They can block certain types of content, but they don’t limit or restrict access to the device itself. And Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are never going to tell your kids that they’ve spent enough time on their networks.
Meet Circle from Disney
Circle from Disney solves many of these major problems. It can change your family’s relationship with screens, the internet, and even each other.
What is Circle?
Circle seamlessly connects with your home WiFi network to help parents filter content, manage screen time, and view and filter the sites and apps their kids use online.
It has two parts: a white plastic box about the size of a Rubik’s Cube, and an iOS app.
The cube seamlessly detects and connects to all devices on the home wireless network, including smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, Apple TV, and computers. The Circle iOS app manages how the internet is used on these devices. It has a powerful set of features:
Create daily time limits on apps and popular sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Set individual filter levels by age—Pre-K, Kid, Teen, and Adult—for each member of your family.
Set Time Limits & Put the Internet on Pause
You can pause the internet for a single family member or the whole home with a single tap. You can pause a specific device at any time – computer, Kindle, or Apple TV. You can also choose a BedTime for individual family members and devices to avoid late night surfing.
Get Insights and See What Your Kids See Online
Circle gives one complete picture of how much time your kid spends online, and where they spend it. It counts the apps, platforms, categories, and websites they most frequently visit. Browsing history is tracked between all the devices used by your kid.
Three Steps for Activation
Circle is simple to set up:
- Plug it in.
- Download the free iOS app.
- Choose your Circle from WiFi options in your iOS devices settings.
With Circle set up, you then customize settings per family member and device. Kids get an internet experience that’s appropriate for them. Apple TV might allow a half hour of screen time while a laptop might have an hour, with access restricted for homework.
Effective parenting isn’t about control. It’s about teaching self-control.
Modern parents want to protect their kids while teaching them self-control. But you can’t teach kids self-control unless you provide opportunities to practice it. Giving kids a bit of freedom is one of the best ways to encourage learning and self-direction. However, it’s reckless to give kids unrestricted screen time.
Teaching kids about digital safety is one of the most important — and challenging — new responsibilities of parenting.
Circle provides a safe and measured way for kids to use screens without setting them loose on the internet. It can help kids learn digital self-direction with minimal parental involvement by giving kids better feedback about the actual time they spend on various apps and websites.
Kids can keep track of their own progress, and they can check up on their time limits in their MyCircle dashboard, so they know how much time they have left and make better choices about how to use it.
My favorite thing about Circle: it helps take parents out of the daily tug-of-war over screen time, while sparking better family conversations on the topic.
Parents set screen time limits in Circle. But once they’re set, they’re managed by the device. This means that parents aren’t the focus of the technology tug-of-war.
Circle also lets parents see how their kids use technology. This gives parents information to guide better conversations with their kids.
Finally, Circle helps parents serve as better role models.
Some kids pick up digital habits from watching their parents. A few months ago I wrote a post about putting your phone away in front of your kids. Circle may be the easiest way to make that happen via its “Pause the Internet” feature.
I believe Circle is exactly the right kind of tool for modern parents.
It supports the traditional role of parent as rule-setter and protector, but it gives kids safe guidelines to learn to digital responsibility.