I get asked about parental control devices and apps constantly. I’m always happy to provide answers, as I’ve tried most of them out and definitely have my favorite parental control apps. One question I get a lot though, is about the Circle device (sometimes knowns as the Circle by Disney or Circle Parental Control), and is it worth it?
The Circle Parental Control device is a small box that you plug into your home network and it helps filter content to devices on the network and allows you to set time limits on devices. In theory, this would be a great device. However, I’m not a fan. I prefer to use a WiFi Router with built-in parental controls like the Gryphon.
The Circle Parental Control by Disney significantly slowed my network down
When the device first came out, I was extremely anxious to try it out. I love trying out these kinds of products so I can see if it’s worthy of a recommendation or not. I set it up on my network and instantly my WiFi speeds tanked. It caused such a delay that I was sure the device was defective.
The company sent me another to try out, and I experienced the same problems. Additionally, my WiFi network would just drop the 5Ghz network randomly, so devices connected to that would no longer have an internet connection. Once I rebooted the router, it would come back up. The problem ONLY occurred with the Circle plugged in.
I finally tried a third device from the company, at which point I said forget about it as I could not recommend the device.
The Circle isn’t actually owned or operated by Disney
When the Circle first came out there was Disney branding on the box. The Disney branding has since been removed from later models, but the idea has definitely stuck around that it’s a Disney device. As a ginormous Disney fan myself, I wanted to research why the branding was there in the first place.
Disney has an investment arm that will put financial backing into products or services they believe in. Circle was just such a product. Disney invested in the company, but did not own or operate the company. I really feel it was disingenuous to have the Disney branding on the box, but it sure helped them with brand recognition right out of the gate, so I can’t really fault them for that.
So to be clear though, Disney does NOT own or operate the Circle device. The company name is Circle.
The Circle charges a monthly fee for features that should be included
Originally the Circle had several features like setting a bedtime or other time limits for different users and the ability to pause the internet at any given time. All of these features have now been moved to their premium service. You can pay annually or monthly for the service, but if you are purchasing the device, these features should absolutely be included like they are with the Gryphon.
The Circle will ONLY disable the internet, it will not disable the device
Due to the nature of the device, the Circle only has the ability to turn the internet off to the device. At that point your child can still play on the device, as long as they aren’t using the internet. So if you want them to shut off the Nintendo Switch at a certain time, the Circle is only going to make online games non-functional. Your child would still be able to put a game cartridge in and play all night.
The same goes for a phone or a tablet. As long as the internet is not needed to play the game, your child will still be able to play after the time limit has been reached on the Circle.
The Circle is easily disabled
Unplugging the Circle will allow free access to the internet. There is an internal battery that will keep it up for a short period of time, but once that runs out the Circle is essentially disabled. You will be notified that the device has been unplugged so you can deal with that on your own, but it’s not going to prevent them from unplugging it.
I prefer to use the Gryphon, where the controls are built into the device. If your child unplugs the Gryphon, they also unplug the internet. There are some wifi routers that have Circle technology built into them, so this would not apply in that case. Most Netgear routers use the Circle for parental controls. However, it doesn’t allow for an additional layer of protection from a service like OpenDNS.
Needless to say, I’m not a fan of the Circle device. Yes, they sent me a few to try out, but I never could recommend the product, and I still cannot. So, is the Circle by Disney worth it? I say that it is not, #SorryNotSorry
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