Every year, the internet welcomes a new wave of online tools and sites that make education and socialization more fun and rewarding, especially for kids. But as with most things in life, safety and moderation are key to making the most of what the internet has to offer. Internet service providers across the cable industry are committed to protecting today's kids from a range of threats that lurk online, from cyberbullies to social media addiction to obsessive online habits that affect the time spent with family members. Charter, Comcast, Cox, Mediacom and Midco all offer online parental controls that help parents manage their kids' internet use through time limits, search restrictions, and blocking mechanisms. And another recent standout technology that is empowering parents is the security appliance, Circle with Disney.
A small piece of hardware that plugs directly into a home Wi-Fi router, Circle offers parents a set of access control and safe search features that allow them to guide their kids on how to use certain sites in moderation. In a Q&A with NCTA, Circle CEO & Co-Founder Lance Charlish shared more about how security devices like Circle are helping to curb risky online behavior before it starts, and why it's important to promote positive and rich online learning experiences through parental controls, guidance and empowerment.
How have families benefited from Circle?
One of the biggest issues that families face with screen time is differing expectations and when enough is enough. Too often, kids can get completely engrossed in their YouTube videos and games and easily lose track of time or choose to not respond to parents when they’re saying it’s time to disconnect. So often the interaction devolves into tension between parents and kids of every age solely on the topic of screen time.
Circle is designed to fit every family’s needs by empowering parents with a feature set that can be customized for every member of the family. By enabling pre-set limits on social platforms, Circle forms a sort of social contract between kids and parents with an understanding of where family members can spend time online and how much time they can spend online.
It also serves as a great way for parents to gain insights into not only how much time is used, but where everyone in the family (parents included!) is spending their time.
With these limits in place at home or on outside networks (with the addition of the Circle Go service), kids can learn what is acceptable and self-moderate to the point of having much healthier habits as they grow and mature.
What parts of the device have helped families the most?
Consistently, our customers have told us that Time Limits and BedTimes have been among the most popular features for a myriad of reasons. By putting limits on certain apps like Instagram and Snapchat, kids have to be more cognizant and use their time online accordingly.
BedTimes give parents confidence that their kids aren’t up all night watching YouTube videos or playing games online by automatically disconnecting a family member’s devices from the internet at their set BedTime.
Is it easy to navigate and set up?
Circle Home was designed to be easy to set up for techy or non-techy parents. Circle pairs to your existing home router, and is set up by following step by step instructions in the Circle App.
Setup can typically be completed in about 10-15 minutes, depending on how many features you want to set up and how many devices your family has. For example, our filters have default suggestions on what is allowed and what isn’t, but all of those can be customized to more accurately reflect a child’s developmental milestones. For some, 45 minutes of Instagram per day is enough, while others may be more comfortable with a different amount of time. Circle doesn’t dictate what parents should do, but gives them the tools to reflect their values with regard to what is acceptable screen time usage.
Why is it important that parents' take control of their kids' online experiences?
Through our varying opportunities to meet with parents and speak with the media, it’s clear that screen time is the core parenting challenge of our generation. Kids are getting devices [at younger ages] and spending hours on them which is having effects that are only now beginning to be understood through research. In the online universe, kids can be subjected to an adult world of content from videos, games, forums, and apps. It’s critical that parents play an active role in determining optimal device usage.
In 2018 alone, the World Health Organization classified gaming addiction as an illness for the first time, giving credence to what many in the mental health communities have felt was long overdue. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics has continually evolving guidelines for children’s screen time to promote emotional and physical health.