There’s no shortage of time-squeezing activities that kids (today!) spend on their phones. Indeed, in my family, the youngest tech reviewer actually left her phone in her hand. She often stays up late chatting with friends and is always glued to the screen. If her phone dies, she immediately jumps to find the power cord.
There’s also no shortage of recommended tech solutions for parents looking to get their kids’ attention from TikTok or protect them from the dark corners of the web. Parental controls on both Apple and Android phones are now standard, and they work well on a basic level, but they’re not hard for smart kids to dodge. Also, if your child has multiple devices, each must be set up separately. It’s a pain and many kids simply don’t want to allow their parents to control their devices.
The solution to the last point is beyond the scope of this review, but if you can overcome that challenge, Circle Home Plus provides a parental control solution that can block entire categories of websites, filter content based on age, and set time limits for an unlimited number of devices, including Mac, Windows and even iOS and Android devices. The downside is that it’s expensive and doesn’t seem to offer really compelling benefits over things like Apple device usage time and Google Family Link option.
The Circle Home Plus ($129) is a hybrid hardware/software solution, and setup is a bit involved. First, you have to download the Circle Plus app on your own device, select the Parent App option, create your account, and select the Circle Plus Home option. You then need to set up a Home Plus device (the white block that comes with it), which connects to your router via ethernet to manage any internet-connected devices on your home network. You then need to install the app on your child’s device and follow the instructions to set up a virtual private network to control the device. afterward you need to set up different filters and limits. This is not a quick process.
That said, one of the charms of Circle Home Plus is that you can control everything – and we mean whatever from phone to computer to media streamer to thermostat – from the app on your phone… of course after you set up child accounts for other devices. The Home Plus unit also includes a backup battery that will keep the service running for an hour or two even if it is surreptitiously unplugged by children. (You’ll get an alert on your phone app that someone is shuffling the cube if that happens.)
Circle Home Plus includes several functions to limit the content and time of managed device usage. It provides time, usage, and history limits of used websites and apps, and powerful content filtering for everything from adult websites to games and apps. talking about social media and everything therein. You can set it to block the Internet at certain times, such as bedtime or dinner time, and even set up what it calls focus time. This is probably for working adults or kids doing homework as it limits the types of sites you can access to what Circle considers work and school related sites. learn. All of these can also be customized.
Finally, there’s a nifty reward system. For example, say your child does his homework quickly and well. You can reward her with 45 minutes of game time even when she is in the middle of her homework time.
The parent’s account has an in-app dashboard to see what websites kids are visiting, what pages are allowed, what pages are being filtered, etc. Children can see what their filtering level is, how long. how long they have left on the Internet, the countdown to bedtime (if you have set it), how long they use the device, and any rewards you may have given them.
Circle Home Plus adds a huge amount of convenience to managing a large family of kids and gadgets, but it doesn’t really do much beyond what iOS, Google, and Android parental controls offer. . That said, the convenience factor of being able to manage every device your kid has in a single app is great.
Second, it’s not cheap. This kit costs $129. That includes a free year of Circle subscription, which gives you access to all traffic control functions. But after that, the subscription is $9.99 per month, $29.99 for three months, or $89.99 per year. If you have several kids with lots of devices, it might be worth it. But if you have a smaller brood, the cost can be a bit high.
Third, and this is not limited to Circle, but a determined child can find a way to solve this problem. The latest versions of iOS and Android both provide private IP addresses, which discourages tracking of devices on the internet. But it can also confuse a Circle Plus Home device, which expects a consistent, public IP address. In addition, Android users can switch user accounts to avoid detection. Both platforms offer ways to prevent Circles from being removed, but if kids are determined to find a way around it, they can.
Fourth, Circle collects a great deal of data about you and every device on the network, “which may include, but is not limited to, Navigation Information and Network Preferences. … Navigation information refers to information about Your device and operating system and Your interaction with the Service, including but not limited to: Your IP address, device model and version, date and time of accessing our Services and the length of time You continued to use our Services, referring URLs (websites you visited), pages visited on our Services, type and your browser version, operating system, browser history, device ID and geographic location. ” While Circle’s privacy statement obviously, the amount of data collected still seems to be too much.
Finally, and this can be a matter of choice, will it kill Circle to provide a web app to manage everything? You can only access the service and manage the device on the parent’s phone.
Circle has a unique value in allowing you to manage multiple devices in a single app, providing kids with good, but not groundbreaking, protection from the wild parts of the Internet. It also allows parents to impose some digital discipline on their teens and tweens, who may not admit that checking their phone every 10 seconds is a problem. . But you’ll need the child’s cooperation to install all necessary functions on the phone, including iOS or Android parental controls that limit Circle’s ability to circumvent limits.
$129.99 with a year of Circles subscription included
|Circle Plus Home Dimensions||
3.25 x 3.25 x 3.25 inches
2.4Ghz Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
iOS 13 and above