There are many great battles in history; the Battle of the Bulge, the Surrender at Yorktown, Storming the Beaches in Normandy, we learned from all of them and they helped shape our history. There is currently a battle being waged, that will also shape our history, but it isn’t being fought with weapons and armies, it’s being fought with technology; it’s the Battle Over Screen Time.
I have three young children, 12, 9 and 7. They were born and are being raised in a society where information is hurled at them 24/7. An answer can be “Googled” and some of their favorite personalities are considered “influencers”. It’s a media age and whether we like it or not, our children have nearly unlimited access.
Circle is a very unassuming piece of equipment. It, despite its geometrical name, is a cube. It is a small white cube that you plug into your router that your kids will instantly loathe.
After a simple configuration (no really, it’s a handful of steps) you create a user account for each person in your family. Those accounts are managed by an admin (you) and that admin can then set a variety of parameters for each individual based upon a combination of that person’s age, maturity, etc. (Don’t worry mom and dad, you can leave your devices “unmanaged”, unless of course, you are also trying to reduce your screen time.)
Any device in your home that accesses WIFI can be assigned to a user and is then controlled by the parameters for that user. (For mobile devices, you can purchase Circle Go, which will keep the same parameters in place for mobile data users.)
My eldest is a middle schooler. As such, she is just beginning to use social media. On her account, I have blocked Facebook but allowed Instagram, however, she has only 15 minutes a day access. If she does something extra-helpful around the house, I can “reward” her by pressing a button on her profile and granting her additional Instagram time. Circle manages her bedtime as well, disabling access on her device after 9 pm.
I am also aware of a site called music.ly that a lot of kids her age use, however, music.ly has a “chat” feature with no restrictions. I am not a fan of strangers chatting, therefore, I have added “music.ly” to our blocked list. Another favorite feature is “pausing” the Internet. If I’ve asked you to take the trash out twice and you are too busy on your device, I can open your profile and “pause” your access.
A lot of people will argue that “if you were a more attentive parent, this wouldn’t be an issue, just take their phone away”, which might work for some, but as I said, information is so readily available and all it takes is one mis-click for a kid to see something they don’t need to see.
Circle isn’t a service, it’s a one-time purchase (~$100) at any of the big box stores or Amazon. And it’s a bargain considering you don’t really want your seven-year-old browsing pictures of any of the current battles being waged in the world.
*I am not being compensated in any way for this piece. I just like Circle and I’m always looking for ways to feel like a successful parent.