Now I thought i was in-tune with the tech-world. I read more tech related blogs on the inter-webs than most ‘normal guys’. Somehow or another I missed this perfect piece of kit. As I sat at dinner with some very good friends she began to tell me about a device that limits the time my kids spend on specific websites, apps, and devices in general. She says (very nicely, I might add ) “You never heard of Circle???”. I was mortified. Here was my friend and fellow blogger, who knows I am the technology guy, schooling ME on tech. I felt deflated, inferior, and shamed. I wanted to crawl under the table, curl up in a ball and cry. But instead, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and ordered the $99 device right then and there (the site even supported ApplePay which made my purchase a simple thumbprint scan, and it was done!) Now I had to wait - and change the subject at dinner to something less damning.
Well, little did I know that today was the day. I got home from work to find a little 7x5x5 box in the mail. Forgetting exactly what I might have ordered, I immediately ran inside, found a knife and peeled it open. (I felt like Ralphie’s dad opening my major award- it must be Italian!) It was here!
Meet Circle. The nearly perfect device for the tech-savy Dad who HATES to manage firewalls. You see, my kids are spoiled rotten - they each have an iPhone and an iPad mini. And in my opinion, both of them are on these devices far more than they should be. (My wife says it is all my fault ) It is a tiny white box about 3 inches cubed that you hook up to your wi-fi network, it takes all of about 10 mins to hook it up, download the app to your iPhone and have it ready to go.
Once it is all running you start adding family members to the app. You pick their age range ( preschool, kid, teen, adult ) and then you add their devices from the list of devices on your wifi network. I am ashamed, embarrassed, proud, (all of the above ) to tell you there were over 100 devices on my network to pick from. Your video game consoles show up, your Apple TV(s), DVR, Nest thermostat, even you Apple Watch! And most show up with their names not some cryptic IP or MAC address.
You then determine what apps/websites they can access, whether or not they can see explicit content, what time of day they can use their devices, how long they can use them, even how long on any specific task or app (youtube included!) is to be used for. All of these things could have been done within my internet router sitting in the basement. But not nearly this easily, and not nearly this intuitively. I had all 4 of us set up and managed within 15 minutes.
The app has some very cool features, you can literally go in and press the ‘PAUSE’ button on your entire internet, or each kid’s internet, as needed. So if it is homework time - pause, dinnertime - pause, brush your teeth, you are late for school time - pause.
The best part is that there is no subscription, no ongoing fees. You pay $99 one time and you can manage as many devices as you can imagine. Now all of this is awesome, however you might ask what about when they are not on my home wifi, how does it work then? Well - they also offer $10 / month service for applying the same rules and monitoring when they are out and about - anywhere in the world, on wifi or cellular connection. A little bit pricey for most consumers but very some very cool tech.
So how well does it work? It is new, but so far it is nearly perfect - In fact my son came to me at 9pm and asked if the internet was down. I simply stated no - it is working fine - it is just your bedtime. He looked at me and said - “That new box thing stinks!” - Sounds like it is doing it’s job!