The company behind a device that helps parents enforce their home’s internet rules and restrictions, Circle with Disney, launched last winter in partnership with Disney for its included media content, will now allow parents to manage children’s devices outside the home. The company announced this morning the launch of a subscription-based companion service called Circle Go that lets parents filter the web and apps, limit screen time, and keep up-to-date on how kids are spending time online even when they’re outside the bounds of the home’s Wi-Fi network.
The Circle with Disney hardware and software suite is one of a handful of new startups aimed at making parents’ lives easier when it comes to restricting internet use for children.
Most devices – including iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, and Amazon’s Fire tablets – come with parental controls built-in. But some parents struggle to understand these settings, while others feel they can be more trouble than they’re worth. (Setting age restrictions on apps can end up blocking YouTube, for example).
Meanwhile, traditional parental control software can come across more like spyware rather than policy management tools.
Startups are trying to rethink how parental controls should work in this multi-device, app-centric age. Along with Circle with Disney, the Amazon-backed Luma router also offers smart parental controls, while the newly launched Bark software, balances online safety and respect for children’s right to privacy, for example.
Circle with Disney’s current product is a small hardware device that connects with your Wi-Fi network (but doesn’t replace your current router), and is managed by an accompanying mobile app. Moms and dads can configure various controls to filter web searches, websites and app content, set “bedtimes,” block ads, view internet usage and other insights, and even “pause” the home’s internet for a period of time.
The “Disney” part refers to the media content from Circle’s partner, Disney, which includes trailers, video clips, games, social media posts, promos, and more from Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Star Wars, and elsewhere.
While this system is useful for managing your household’s rules regarding internet use, it was restricted to devices on the home’s Wi-Fi network.
Circle Go changes that, by allowing all of the original features to extend outside the home. This is not a standalone subscription service, however, but an add-on to Circle with Disney – it requires that you already have the $99 device and the MyCircle companion app installed.
The service costs $9.95 per month and covers up to 10 devices.
Like Circle with Disney, Circle Go lets you filter websites and apps, including managing platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. And parents can set time limits, bedtimes, track web usage, and even pause 4G LTE and Wi-Fi on the child’s device – a perfect tool for enforcing the age-old punishment: “you’re grounded: no phones or tablets for the rest of the day!”
The new subscription service is available via meetcircle.com, while the device itself can be purchased online at the company’s website as well as from DisneyStore.com, Amazon, and both online or in-store at Target and Best Buy.