Cutting Your Kids' Screen Time

If you’ve ever struggled with your kids about the amount of time they spend on their Internet devices—and what parent hasn’t?—you may appreciate a new hardware-based approach to solving your problem. Called Circle With Disney) ($99), it gives you control over what your kids can do on the Internet and how much time they can spend doing it. It also protects them from age-inappropriate sites.


How It Works

Circle With Disney’s key advantage is its simplicity. Competing approaches, usually based on software that you download on your Mac or PC, demand some computer savvy and require you to go to the computer whenever you want to make changes. In contrast, you control Circle With Disney from your smartphone via an iOS- or Android-compatible app. The app itself is clean and easy to understand. The immediacy of the controls is crucial as your kid goes into meltdown mode and you need access to instant Internet cutoff.

image alt text

Circle With Disney offers impressive granular control. The product gives you five preset age levels for filtering content. You can also set total time limits—for example, two hours a day before all of Timmy’s devices disconnect from the Internet. You can also limit time on certain platforms, like YouTube or Instagram. You can create bedtime hours. You can even pause the Internet by using the pause button on the app’s home screen, pausing it for one person or for the whole family, say at dinner time. This may be the closest you’ll ever come to feeling like Adam Sandler’s character in the film Click, who discovers that his TV remote controls time.

Borrowing From the Black Hats

The brains of Circle With Disney are a small, white cube that pairs wirelessly to your Wi-Fi. It works by using ARP spoofing, which ironically is a tactic that hackers sometimes use to prey on the innocent. Only here it helps protect the innocent by intercepting and inspecting communications between your family’s connected devices. "It’s true, ARP spoofing can be used by ‘black hats’ to compromise network security," Circle founder Jelani Memory said. “But the technique can also be used for good, like with Circle. Circle uses ARP spoofing to automatically monitor all traffic on the home network, without the need for any special configuration.”


Dr. Joe Dilley, a practicing clinical psychologist for 14 years and author of The Game Is Playing Your Kid: How to Unplug and Reconnect in the Digital Age, told Techwalla that Circle With Disney dovetails nicely with one of the key recommendations he makes to parents to help them manage their kids’ screen time: Make technology work for you. "Stop feeling like the bad guy, and quit waiting for your kid to melt down when you take away the device," he said. “Let your tools and resources enforce the screen time limits that your child’s behavior warrants.”

A device like Circle with Disney can help parents set those limits, he says.

As is clear from its name, Circle With Disney has partnered with the venerable entertainment giant. The partnership gives parents peace of mind that the product works, since Disney carefully vets everything about a product before putting its name on it. In addition, Disney provides curated content in the form of promos, trailers, and short-form videos that will help your kids swallow the bitter pill of accepting that the Internet is no longer available to them 24/7.

Circle With Disney is available for $99.