With more and more devices for children accessing the Internet, it can be difficult to figure out a good way to manage everything.
It’s completely understandable to want to make sure that the content your children are viewing is appropriate for their age, or limited to certain hours of the day. Having to juggle multiple devices with Internet connectivity usually means that parents have to put forth twice the effort—while unsavory content slips through the cracks regardless.
Disney—knowing their age demographics and the problems parents face in the current climate—has recently put forth their solution to a complex issue.
The Disney Circle hardware and Disney Circle app are interconnected hardware and software that allows parents greater control over the Internet devices in their home. Circle with Disney also offers an easy way to set limitations on specific apps, devices, and even the entire access to the Internet in the household.
A parental control application with effective hardware to back it up sounds like a home run from a company as reputable as Disney—but is it right for every home? We’ll be looking at the features you can expect with the Disney Circle, the best and worst parts of using the Disney Circle app for parental control and trying to uncover whether this approach is right for your family.
New Approaches to a 21st Century Problem
Disney Circle’s baseline functionality comes down to two concepts—the Circle itself, and the adjoining app.
Once you order a Disney Circle, you should receive a small white box that serves as the “hub” for all of the devices in the home. This hub is connected wirelessly to the Wi-Fi router in the home, and all other devices are connected to the Circle unit.
This creates a sort of “gatekeeper” system, in which anyone who needs to use the Internet must do so through the Disney Circle. Of course, the Circle’s functionality will be limited when it comes to usage of cellular signal or computers connected to the Internet via an Ethernet cable.
Once you’ve set up the Circle unit, the next step in securing your home’s technology is to download the Circle app.
This app acts as a control unit for the Disney Circle—sending out the signal to allow certain devices access at certain times. For a nominal fee, the Circle can also monitor the exact information that moves through the unit—such as metrics on apps, websites, and more.
Each device connected to the Circle is assigned a name and a photo to correspond to the family member that most uses that product. These are kept center stage on the main tab of the Disney Circle app. Simply tapping on these photos will give you access to the usage and functionality of that specific device.
A total “kill switch” is also on this center page—allowing you to pause Internet completely, across every device in the home.
Specific functionality of the Disney Circle app also includes controlling both the amount of time an app is used as well as which applications are allowed to function when.
For instance—when a child is accessing the internet, you can set up a specific “blacklist” of websites that the device is not allowed to access. Alternatively, you can allow specific websites for a certain amount of time per day.
Once the day ends, you can also program “bedtimes” into the devices that will cut off the access to the Internet for the evening. Using this functionality is especially helpful for parents that want to ensure that bedtime is enforced.
As a whole—the Disney Circle and Disney Circle app remain a new approach to a 21st-century problem. By using the Circle hub, Disney has created a sort of closed system that limits the “all or nothing” factor of the Internet.
Instead of disconnecting and unplugging the family router at night, the Circle allows you to keep certain devices connected while removing others from functionality.
The data analysis and monitoring system are also convenient for families that want to make sure that their kids are keeping to the correct websites and games. Few other devices offer a way for your child to access the Internet while keeping them away from websites that may not be age-appropriate.
For parents that want Circle functionality beyond the limits of the family router, Disney also offers Circle Go—an extension of the Circle hardware and software.
By installing a Virtual Private Network onto the phone itself, Circle can function anywhere, and everywhere a device goes, and on any network. Smarter kids may find a workaround for Circle Go, but any time the system is de-activated, parents will get a notification.
Of course, no product is perfect, and the Disney Circle lacks in certain areas and brings up a few ethical concerns.
As children age, the access and ability to use the Internet will naturally begin to shift away from parents and towards personal responsibility and accountability.
Circle, and particularly the additional software that allows parents to view the specific web history, works best for younger children. For teenagers and older children, however, it may not be wise or ethical to have that sort of information at your fingertips.
We would suggest using the data analytics part of Circle for the youngest children while keeping the bedtime functionality for older children. Circle Go is another issue entirely, but its use depends entirely on age and personal parenting styles.
Regardless of what you choose, we did feel it necessary to note that with great power comes great responsibility.
On top of these concerns, there is also the issue of router functionality.
Disney Circle is a relatively new development for the company—and the level of access it grants to parents and users is unprecedented. Older routers may not be able to handle the product, or it’s adjoining software.
If you’re considering purchasing a Circle unit, we highly recommend checking in with Disney’s website to make sure that you have a system in place that’s compatible with the current hardware.
Finally, there’s the problem of privacy—and we’re not referring to the privacy of your children.
Disney Circle—by nature of the device—has access to each piece of media, each website, and each application that a device in your home has access to. With the hub, Disney would easily be able to access that information for its purposes.
While this may sound like a conspiracy to some, the reality is very much like this—the Disney Circle website claims to periodically access this information—in an anonymous fashion—to gain insight and improve the service.
Assuming that Disney keeps to their word on this when using a Circle, you are consenting to a slight invasion of privacy of your own to lock down the devices around your home.
Remember how we said great power comes with great responsibility? We recommend considering whether or not you mind Disney’s access to your information when using the Circle device.
The Circle is undoubtedly one of the easiest Internet monitoring systems available today.
While other products and other routers offer similar functionality, none can do so with the ease of use and simplicity of the Disney Circle. For the cost of the hub and a monthly fee, you can easily and quickly gain access to a myriad of features.
These features do come at a cost, however. An ethical argument could be made about the sheer reach and scope of the Circle device—specifically when it comes to website usage monitoring and 4G monitoring.
Putting this aside, there is also the concern older routers being unable to work with the device, and causing further issues with Internet connectivity for anyone in the home. Finally, there is the vague language in the Terms & Conditions of the product that gives Disney access to the usage and history of devices—regardless of whether or not it is a child’s device or the device of an adult.
Trying to figure out if the Disney Circle app is right for you means asking yourself whether or not you can make peace with the above concerns. For those with particularly young children or those with particularly disobedient children, this product may be right for you.
For those more conscious of the growing access of companies to personal data, however, you would be just as justified in holding back and looking for alternative methods of discipline.
We hope that this overview has given you peace of mind and helped you decide whether or not Disney’s Circle deserves a place in your home.