For Circle Media and Disney, the road to managing just how much time your kids spend online and what they do when they're connected starts at the router. The two companies have teamed up to release Circle With Disney, a $99 device that connects with your Wi-Fi network to manage when devices can connect and what apps and websites they the little ones can access when they're online.
Through an iOS app, parents use Circle With Disney to set up user profiles for every device that connects to the home networking, including computers, mobile phones, tablets and gaming consoles. The app contains five profiles for different age groups with settings for whether users can access platforms like Amazon, Facebook and Netflix, download apps, or go to specified websites.
The idea behind the Circle device isn't to act as some sort of technological Big Brother recording your every move, Circle Media founder Jelani Memory said. Instead, the idea is to put some muscle behind the limits parents set up with their kids on how much screen time is allowed. Even the app's reporting tools only list how much time someone spent using a particular app, as opposed to a precise log of activities within that app.
Circle's primary features include the ability to set time limits, whether that's an overall amount of online time or time spent with specific content categories or apps -- limiting all that Minecraft building to just an hour, say. A bedtime feature lets parents specify the hours of the day when kids can't connect to the Internet. And if there's ever a need to cut off Internet time, whether it's to focus on homework or just for a time out, a pause button can disable Internet access for individual users, devices or everyone in the home.
Disney's involvement with Circle includes a licensing partnership. Disney will curate games, videos and other age-appropriate online content that will be available through a feature called MyCircle.
The Circle With Disney product only manages devices on a Wi-Fi network, which would leave devices like smartphones still able to connect to cellular networks. Circle Media's Memory says his company is working on a product called Circle Go, which will be a subscription based product that extends Circle's management features to mobile devices. That product, set to launch in mid-2016, will first be available for iOS users with an Android version to follow.