- Pause the internet
- Add time limits to apps
- Mobile device location tracking
- Rewards system
- Lifetime subscription available
- No web dashboard
- Doesn’t work for every router
Phones, tablets, and gaming consoles – kids always have access to the internet. So, it’s hard for parents to make sure their children stay safe while avoiding distractions online. That’s where Oregon-based Circle comes in. Since 2014, the company has been developing parental control devices that manage everything connected to it. Circle lets you create individual profiles for your children and set limits for their screen time. Since the Circle Home Plus device operates using your router, you can even use it to pause the internet completely. Because you have to pay for a device and a subscription, Circle isn’t the cheapest. But it’s one of the few parental control tools to offer a one-off lifetime payment, allowing you to save money in the long run. And you can test out the service first through its 14-day free trial.
Circle is a combination of Circle Home Plus – the physical device you connect to – and the Circle Parental Controls App. Both work in tandem, and we’ll get into how exactly Circle Home Plus works a little later, but you can think of it simply as an extension of your existing router.
To get started, you need to create a separate profile for each user through the Circle app, with a choice of three categories: Kid, Teenager, and Adult. The latter isn’t often seen in parental control software, but it’s a nice option to have that lets you share the experience with your kids. All profiles are fully customizable, which means you can set up different restrictions on categories (like social media, gambling, explicit content), apps, or specific websites.
Circle is unique in that it lets you set up time limits for each app. So, if your child is hooked on a game, then you can set a one-hour time limit. You’re also able to organize a bedtime schedule for the week, and Circle will pause the internet for that device afterward. Plus, you can set up a waking time for when the internet resumes in the morning. Similarly, Circle also has a feature called Focus Time. With Focus Time, you’re able to set up periods during the day when the internet cuts out – ideal for family time or homework. However, you don’t need to follow a strict schedule. From the app, you can pause the internet for everyone or individual profiles whenever you want.
These features are all beneficial, but kids are never happy to have their screen time restricted. You can flip that around with Circle’s rewards system. The rewards allow you to give your kids more screen time for good behavior. This can be done by extending time limits for daily usage or specific apps, disabling Focus Time, or even giving them a late bedtime.
All features are controlled by using the Circle app, where you’ll also find your child’s browser history. However, this is one of the few areas that could be improved. The app has so many settings to control that it’s awkward to navigate them all. An expanded web dashboard would be a great future addition to make life easier.
Circle Home Plus
Circle Home Plus works by essentially replacing your router. Simply plug in your ethernet cable or connect it to your existing Wi-Fi, and then you’re ready to connect all your devices to Home Plus. The Home Plus device is quite small, so you don’t need to worry about it taking up space. We’d have appreciated a longer charging cable than the one provided, but since it’s a USB to USB-C lead it’s easily replaceable.
Although Circle Plus is compatible with most routers, it doesn’t work with all of them. So, it’s worth checking the compatibility list on the Circle website to make sure yours will work before getting your credit card.
Circle doesn’t monitor a child’s social media interactions like some other parental control software does, but you can still regulate its use. Social media is restricted depending on your child’s profile filter. For example, the Kid profile doesn’t have access to Facebook by default, but Teen does. A dating app like Tinder is blocked on the Kid and Teen profiles but is accessible with an Adult profile. Of course, all of these are customizable for each child so that you can tailor them to your needs. And as with other apps, Circle lets you add time limits on social media apps or use them as a reward.
As long as you connect your device to Circle, you’ll be able to manage the internet connection with the Circle app. This means Circle works for Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, and game consoles. Everything is protected by a built-in VPN, which is what enables Circle to pause the internet, filter content, and discover which servers are being connected to in the case of games like Fortnite.
The Circle app can be installed on your children’s Android or iOS devices for further monitoring and some extra features. For example, Circle lets you check a device’s GPS to see exactly where your child is at all times. Plus, Circle makes it difficult for kids to uninstall the app on their phones, and even if they succeed, you’ll receive an email notification.
With Circle, you need to pay for the equipment as well as a recurring monthly subscription. There are three plans available and the cheapest is to buy Circle for $69, which comes with a three-month subscription. After the three months are up, you’ll have to pay for your subscription either $9.99 per month or a discounted rate of $89.99 per year. Alternatively, you can forget about ever having to pay for a subscription with a one-off purchase of the Lifetime package for $349. But don’t worry if you purchase the 3 Month or 12 Month deal and want to upgrade to Lifetime later – you can do that for $249. It’s also worth regularly checking the Circle website, as you’ll often find discounts that give you 10% off your order and free 2-day shipping.
You can make purchases with Circle using PayPal, Amazon Pay, or any major credit card. And if you’re not completely satisfied with the product, then you can get a full refund within 30 days. It’s also possible to get some money back by taking part in Circle’s referral program. If a friend purchases Circle with your unique link, you’ll receive $10 via PayPal, and your friend will also get $20 off the total cost.
All purchases of Circle are covered by a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee, but you can test out the Circle app first to see if it’s right for your family by taking advantage of the 14-day free trial.
If you need any help with Circle, you can get in touch with customer support either by phone or email. Support is available every day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Circle is also on Facebook and Twitter, but while these are great avenues for finding out the latest information, they’re not the ideal channel for support.
There’s a good chance you won’t even need to get in touch with customer support. Circle has an impressive in-depth help section on its website with FAQs, user guides, and instructional videos. The Circle website has plenty of resources as well, with advice from experts and other parents that covers not just Circle but general parenting tips too.
When it comes to managing screen time, it’s hard to think of a more complete parental control solution than Circle. With Circle, you can set up a full schedule for the week, including bedtimes, focus times, and usage limits. We really like the in-depth reward system that lets you set a late bedtime or give your child a few extra hours playing a game as a treat. The only real downside is that all of this is difficult to manage using the parent version of the Circle app. Improving the layout or adding an expanded browser dashboard would make the entire process easier and much quicker. The price can be intimidating at first too, but when you consider that it’s possible to buy a lifetime subscription, Circle actually turns out to be a much cheaper option in the long term.
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