Circle with Disney, a device that helps parents manage their home’s internet rules and restrictions, wants to be more than just a modern-day net nanny. Already, it had differentiated itself from competing software solutions, by offering a licensed selection of Disney content – like games, videos, trailers and more – to make its service more appealing. Today, it’s taking a step at becoming a more expansive “smart family” platform, through a series of integrations that let Circle work with services that reward kids for chores or meeting activity goals, those that limit distracted driving, those that filter social media, and more.
Amazon Alexa will also work with Circle, allowing parents to ask questions about their kid’s screen time usage. And kids can ask Alexa about their own time limits, as well.
The feature is called “Circle Connections,” but it’s not fully live at this time.
Instead, the company is the unveiling its larger roadmap of integrations planned for the upcoming year. Today, only the first integration – with FamilyTech apps – is actually available.
FamilyTech has a number of apps, including MotherShp, ChoreMonster, and Landra, which help kids earn rewards by performing chores around the house. With Circle, those rewards can now be added screen time or later bedtimes, at parents’ discretion.
Later this year, Circle will roll out more features to Circle Connections, including integrations with connected car service Automatic, automation assistant IFTTT, Misfit activity trackers, and social media filter Rakkoon.
Automatic’s integration is most interesting, as it allows Circle to extend its usefulness to households with older children – an area often overlooked by parental control apps today, which seem to focus more on protecting kids from adult content or limiting screen time.
With Automatic, parents will be able to filter distracting applications – like social media apps – from disturbing teen drivers when the car has started. Those restricted apps are then re-enabled when the car shuts off.
The Rakkoon integration, meanwhile, helps with teens and pre-teens, as it filters questionable content on social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even iMessage. It will also alert parents for things like sexting and bullying.
Misfit will work to reward activity with screen time.
IFTTT’s integration, however, appeals to geekier parents. It will let you do things like make your smart lightbulbs change color when bedtime begins, or connect a real world internet pause button to Circle’s service. Fun, perhaps, but not necessary.
Despite being a parent myself, I’ve been hesitant to utilize strict parental control software or hardware devices in the home, as they add another layer of complexity to internet setup and use.
Instead, I’ve favored a combination of on-device controls provided by the platform maker (e.g. Apple), those in apps (e.g. Google’s safe search filters), and a hefty dose of good old-fashioned parenting. That means we have rules like, no watching YouTube shows unless I approve the channel first, no downloading apps without approval, and limited device use in general.
But I also have the luxury of only having to parent one child. And I’m aware that, as she grows, it will become more difficult to constantly keep an eye on her activity. Integrations like these make a service like Circle seem more appealing, and maybe even worth the hassle of set up and configuration, which, frankly, is still a bit of a pain, if I’m telling the truth.
Circle is a $99 device and is sold online through its website, and on retailers’ sites, including Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Disney Store. It’s also available in Target and Best Buy retail stores.