I want to tell you how a device designed for your kids could work great for you or your spouse as well. Before I do that though, I want to give you a little of my tech background.
One of my first businesses as a teenager in the 90s was to provide computer and tech support to family and friends. Since then, I’ve kept an interest in the latest tech developments. It’s a personal interest (see picture of me building my most recent computer a year ago) that I also incorporate into my work as a sex addiction therapist.
In particular, I lead workshops for parents that includes a segment on how to protect kids online. I do a live demonstration of how to set up parental controls and filters on Apple and Android devices.
The Best Device for Internet Filtering and Parental Controls
There are a lot of options out there for software filtering and hardware, and I have found that Circle is one of the most effective and easiest solutions yet.
I tried to use my huge amount of clout as a marriage and family therapist (LOL) to request a free Circle device for testing and reviewing with no luck. But I’m doing this review anyway to help you better protect the people you care about from negative online content.
So, what is Circle? It’s a small hardware device that essentially hijacks your home WiFi. I know this sounds scary, but it’s actually really helpful. It means that anyone, even your kid’s random friend who comes over and asks for your WiFi code, will have a filtered device! For all that, it is very easy to setup. Just follow the step by step instructions that come with Circle. Their tech support is good if you have any questions.
Hardware vs. Software: You Need Both for Internet Filtering
The benefit of a hardware filter is that it works no matter what software the device (smartphone, computer, tablet, TV, gaming system) is using. However, it will not work when Internet comes from another source (coffee shop, work, LTE, etc.).
Software, on the other hand, works on the device regardless of how it connects to the Internet. However, it’s not that hard to find a workaround or loophole in software filtering.
Given the limitations, most experts recommend using both hardware and software to block unwanted content. After testing, I agree with this approach and find that Circle, a hardware solution, works seamlessly with most software filtering.
Benefits of Circle
Here is a list of some of the key features of Circle based on what families I work with have reported and my own experiences testing it.
If you wanted a hardware-based solution, you would typically set up a special router. However, user interfaces and settings can be cumbersome and difficult to configure. Circle eliminates this problem and has many other perks.
Easy to set up and adjust access to specific sites and services.
YouTube, Netflix, and Facebook filtering!
There is an all-powerful “Pause the Internet” button (this effectively stops the Internet for one specific device--e.g. your son’s phone--or for the whole house).
Time limits on Internet-enabled devices (Xbox limit anyone?).
A real-time breakdown of which kind of sites your child is accessing.
Common Questions about Circle’s Limitations
What if your Circle gets unplugged? This thing takes power, right? Yes, it does, and the developers thought of that. Circle has a built-in battery, and if that runs out, the internet doesn’t work in the whole house until it is powered back on. There are technical explanations for why this works, but it’s more fun to believe in magic!
Does it only filter WiFi? What about a computer wired into my router? Yes, that’s covered too.
What if I leave my house with my device? Circle can’t follow me. That’s correct, but the developers thought of that too and created CircleGo (https://meetcircle.com/circle-go/). This is also why software filtering is such a handy complement on a laptop or other device.
Even better, this isn’t just your child’s filtering hardware. Yes, it comes in Disney promoted packaging, and it’s great for all your kids. But it can also help you or your spouse gain some freedom from the barrage of temptations online.
A therapeutic point to close with: if you are interested in Circle for your teenage son or husband, please bring your loved one into the conversation. Show them this post and share your thoughts. Ideally, get that person’s buy-in to setting up this helpful device as a protective boundary for their emotional and sexual health.
Please contact me with questions, comments, your experience with Circle, or if you want to explore professional help options.