What is Circle?

Circle helps families to manage screen time across all Wifi and mobile devices. Circle Home is the actual device that connects to your router and helps you to control how Wifi is used on:

  • Computers
  • Smart TVs
  • Gaming consoles
  • Mobile devices

When devices are outside your home, Circle’s monthly subscription service ensures that they’re still managed. 

The Key Features

With Circle installed, you can:

Pause or block the internet for any device connected to your home Wifi

Create an allowance time for your child that tabulates across all devices your child uses (e.g. gaming console, computer and iPad)

Schedules off times for devices (e.g. bedtime and homework)

 Manage access to content by:

    • Using pre-assigned web-filters categorized by age
    • Activating YouTube’s Restricted Mode
    • Turning on Safe Search for web-browsing
    • Blocking the App Store and blocking specific websites

 Monitor Usage(how long your kids were online, which websites they visited)

 Circle in Action

 

Best Use

Home Computers and Gaming Consoles

We have used Circle for at least four years now and love the easy-to-use interface.  It makes managing screen time across multiple devices and children so easy. Because it can manage any device on your home Wifi, it is a good option for gaming consoles that rely on an internet connection as well as home computers (including older Macs that can’t upgrad to use Apple’s Screen Time).

School Managed Devices and iPads

Most often school Chromebooks and iPads are set up by the school administrator making it impossible for parents to add additional controls. While some schools may have installed monitoring software that’s also supposed to work at home, it’s not always effective. With Circle, you can easily manage school devices and minimize distractions during homework time without interfering with the school’s software.

Cost

For Mobile Devices only:

Subscription Fee: $9.99/month.

If you are just using Circle to manage mobile devices, you only need to sign up for the subscription service and do not need to purchase Circle Home (a small white box that connects to your router). Also, be advised that Circle does not control every single app. What this means is that when your child’s allowance time is up, they will still have access to offline games. If your child uses a lot of offline games, and this is a concern, you can use Apple’s Screen Time to address this problem. Please contact iConcierge Services for more information.

For Home Computers, Gaming Consoles and Mobile Devices:

Circle Home: $129 (includes 1-year subscription)

If using Circle to manage gaming consoles, be sure to understand how yours works. Some gaming platforms rely on an internet connection 100% of the time. Others need an internet connection only when playing with other players, and some can run just off a DVD. Circle can only control devices connected to the internet, so depending on your situation, Circle may or may not be the right solution.

Also, for Smart TVs, know that Circle can control streaming services (because they require an internet connection), but not cable.

System Requirements

Before purchasing, confirm that Circle is compatible with your devices.

If using Circle for iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), they  must be running iOS 11 or later. To check, go to Settings > General > About > Software Update. 

If you will be using Circle for devices in your home, you need to make sure your router is compatible by clicking by here. Circle recommends that you connect Circle Home to your router using an ethernet cable. It’s not required (you can also connect Circle Home via Wifi), but it should be situated within 10 feet of your router.  Setup is typically fairly straightforward, and Circle does offer a 30-day return policy if it doesn’t work out.

What to Expect with Setup

For Mobile Devices Only:

What you will need: 

  • Your children’s mobile devices (and passcodes)
  • Your phone
  • A 3rd screen to access this guide (a computer is recommended)

 Expected Setup Time: 10 minutes per device

From your phone, start by downloading the Circle app here (be sure to download the Circle Parental Controls app) and set up an account. Once your subscription is activated, you should advance to the Family Profiles Screen. Begin by setting up a profile for your child which includes setting web filters, time limits and a bedtime. Now you will go through a process of pairing your child’s device to the parent app. To see what the process looks like, click here.

 From your child’s device, download the Circle Parental Controls app and follow the prompts.

Now that you’re set up, you can create a parent passcode for the Circle app by:

  • Tapping Settings
  • Tapping Lock Pin and toggling on to Enable

For Circle Home

What you will need: 

  • Ethernet cable (recommended but not required)
  • Your Wifi network name and password
  • Your children’s mobile devices (and passcodes)

Expected Setup Time: Circle says 10 minutes if connecting via an Ethernet cable, 20 minutes if connecting via Wifi. We think you should always plan that it will take longer. Also, to the best of your abilities, make sure that all of your devices are named in a way that makes it easy for you to identify them. For iOS devices, you can check by going to Settings > General > About > Name

 Next, from your phone, start by downloading the Circle app here (be sure to download the Circle Parental Controls app). Go through the steps to setup your account and then scan the Circle Home Plus to activate it.

It’s recommended to install Circle with an ethernet cable and then backup by connecting to Wifi. This video will walk you through it (skip to :22). If you can only setup using Wifi, then see this video.

While setting up Circle Home Plus you’ll be given the option to create a Home profile for shared devices. You’ll also have the option to assign new devices to the Home profile. We recommend selecting this option because in a later step you can apply a filter to block explicit content on any device that comes into your home.

Once you’re connected, the next step is to find the devices you want to manage and assign them to a family member. From your parent app, click the Menu and tap Devices:

If you’re having trouble identifying a device, make sure it’s connected to your Wifi, and go to this site from that device.

Customer Support

If you have any issues, Circle’s support is really good. Their customer service number is: https: 855-498-7879 and their chat app is also effective (it may take a minute for it to appear on the site).

Troubleshooting Circle Home Plus setup.

Check out this help article for assistance pairing Circle Home Plus using the Ethernet cord or the Wi-Fi pairing method. If you’re having issues with Internet connectivity after setting up Circle Home Plus, you may need to enable Compatibility Mode. Learn more here.

How-Tos

To Pause Your Home Network’s Internet Dinner time. Homework time. Or just no-Internet-time.

  • To pause the internet on your home network, tap the pause button
    • On the Home Screen, tap Pause
    • Confirm your Pause
    • To Un-Pause, tap Pause again
  • To Pause the internet for a Family Member, tap on the Family Member and tap the pause button
    • On the home screen, tap the family member you want to pause
    • On their profile screen, tap the Pause button
    • To un-pause the family member, tap Pause on their screen again
  • To Pause a Single Device, tap your Family Member, then select Device and tap
    • On the home screen, tap the Devices icon in the top-right corner
    • Select the device you want to pause from the list by tapping it
    • Tap the Pause button on the Device Settings screen
    • To un-pause, tap the Pause button on the same screen

Circle offers parents pre-determined filter levels that are age-based. Begin by selecting the appropriate filter level for you child.  The next step is to review which platforms (consider them apps) are allowed for your selected filter level.

If Allowed is selected, this means your child will have access except when they’ve reached their daily time limit or the device is scheduled to go off. Not Allowed blocks the platform entirely. If you select Unmanaged, your child will have access 24/7, and usage will not be tracked.

In the Categories section, you can also block entire categories of websites such as online games. You can also add specific websites to block them or grant access to get around a category limit.

The Daily Time Limit is the total amount of time that a family member can spend online each day across all devices assigned to them.

Category Time Limit  – You can also set further limits for individual apps (e.g. platforms) or categories. 

Note: Each app (e.g. platform) is also part of a category.  If, for example,  you set a 1-hour category time limit for social media, but a platform limit of 30 minutes for Instagram, then your child would only be able to access Instagram for 30 minutes. These limits apply regardless of whether your child is accessing via the app or the web-site (for the apps that Circle manages). 

To set up Time Limits:

    1. Open the profile of the family member you’d like to set a time limit for
    2. Tap on Time Limit and toggle on Enable Time Limits. 
    3. Tap your child’s profile under Daily Limit and select the time, then tap Close
    4. If you’d like to add additional time limits, select the Platforms or Category 
    5. To add a Weekend limit, tap Add Weekend and then Done
    6. If you want a different daily limit for Weekends, tap Weekend and tap your child’s profile to adjust
    7. Make sure to hit Save in the top-right corner when you are finished
To View History
  1. Open the profile of the family member you would like to view History for
  2. Tap the History section
  3. The History page will load, detailing the list of websites visited by the family member, with the most recent websites listed at the top
Visited History

The Visited tab displays websites that were opened by devices under your family member’s profile by date and time.

To filter a visited website:

  1. Click on the website you want to filter.
  2. Tap “Set as Not Allowed“.
  3. The site will now be filtered and can no longer be accessed.
  4. A toggle for this site will now be present under Custom Filters within the family member’s profile.

To set a Bedtime:

  • Tap BedTime from the main profile screen
  • Turn on BedTime by toggling the Enable switch
  • Set a BedTime and an awake time
  • Add Weekend, tap Done and Save

You can also schedule multiple OffTimes. This is a handy feature if you want to block your child’s access their devices during the school day or during homework time.

  1. From the main profile screen, select OffTime
  2. Tap “Add OffTime”. When you add your first OffTime, you may see a small description of OffTimes; tap the “X” to exit this description.
  3. Choose the Name, Days of the Week, and Time  
  4. Tap Done.

When you want to give your child extra time, you can easily grant a Reward without having to change any settings.

To send a Reward:

  • Open your child’s profile 
  • Tap the Reward icon and select the Reward type
  • Be sure to select Send (top right) when you’re done. 

Additional Set up Tips:

School Managed Devices: 

We recommend setting up a separate profile for your child’s school device. This will give you visibility into what they’re doing when online. You can also extend the OffTime and sidestep including the school device in Allowance Time.  To help your your child minimize distractions while doing schoolwork, you can block certain categories (e.g. Entertainment and Online Games).

Smart TVs 

While you can assign all shared devices to Home, you may want to consider setting up separate profiles to give you more flexibility. You may want to pause the kids’ TV, for example, but may not want to block your significant other from watching the big game.

Gaming Consoles

If you have multiple kids who use the gaming console, it doesn’t really make sense to assign it to one of them. We would recommend creating a gaming console profile, and you will have the ability to pause, block and grant as desired. You will also have visibility into how much time your kids spend playing.

 HIFAF Recommendation

We highly recommend using Our Family Agreement to set expectations for how you want screen time to work in your family.

©2021 Heard It From A Friend

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