How to monitor your family’s internet use at the source

This post is sponsored by CircleTracking Pixel

Mark and I recently updated our phones which means we have two older iphones available for the kids to play on when they earn screen time.  In addition to this, we’ve also got three ipads in the home, and Jafta has a chromebook he uses for school.

I love the educational apps that are available on the ipad and iphone platform.  I’ve previously written about some of my favorite educational apps for preschoolers, for kindergartners, and for elementary-aged kids. My school-aged kids attend a technology-enthused school and with the help of apps like Spelling City and Lexia, they can even do some of their homework assignments on the ipads.

At the same time, devices without a filter can pose serious risks for kids. I’ve been witness to therapy clients, friends, and even family members discover, much to their horror, that their kids had been looking at adult content online.  And guys? OF COURSE THEY ARE.  Kids searching for sexual content is not about “what kind of kids they are” but more about natural curiosity and access to the internet. It’s naive to assume that our special kids will never do something like that. We wouldn’t leave a playboy next to the toilet in the bathroom and tell our kids not to look at it when the go to the bathroom. Nor should we hand our kids a smartphone that hasn’t been secured to keep it from becoming “pocket porn” in the hands of a curious child.  (And I say child because it’s not just teenagers that are looking things up. Think about what age you think your child might look up explicit content, and lock down your devices a good 3 years before that age.)  My kids are 10, 9, 9, and 6 and we’ve got all of our devices preventively secured because I want to be proactive about this, not reactive after they’ve found something.

Previously, we monitored each device individually. This meant that on some devices, we were using a browser filter, and on others, using the filters on iOS. It was hard to keep track of and meant that we had to configure each device separately.

Recently, we had a chance to try Circle in our home. This is a new parenting filter from Disney that monitors content at the source - through your router.

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This has been a game changer for us. First of all, it is so simple. You plug it in, you set it up to your Wi-Fi, and it takes over from there. There is an easy to use app that allows you to set up a user account for every member of your family, so it is totally personalized. You can then pair each member of the family to the device that they use, making it possible to customize the filtering based on their own maturity. For example, you can allow a teenager to access Facebook and Instagram, but ban a younger child from looking at those. You can address not just browser activity, but also what apps they are using.

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The thing I like most about Circle, though, is that it can act as a time enforcer. You can set up controls so that each child is allowed on certain types of sites only for a certain amount of time. For example, you can allow a specific child one hour of Minecraft a day, and then they are blocked from Minecraft specifically. It is the perfect way to “set it and forget it” in terms of babysitting your child's Internet use. You can also set it up to limit their time online, and to turn off at a certain time of day.

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You can also set it up to turn off your own internet use at a certain time of day. No more midnight facebook for me.

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If a child tries to access something inappropriate, or goes over their time limit, they will reach a page that shows a recap of their time online. As a parent, you can also use the app to see exactly what everyone in the house is doing. You can see what sites they’ve visited, how much time they’ve been online, and where they are spending most of their time online.

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I have been sincerely impressed with the Circle filtering system, and I think we will use this until our children are adults.I think it’s a perfect solution for families because it addresses all of your devices at once, and makes it much more difficult for a child to get around. And I love that I can monitor the whole thing from my phone, and even pause the internet altogether in my home.

If you have kids and don’t yet have a filter on your router, I definitely recommend Circle!

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