Do you know what your kids are doing online? Protecting your children from internet dangers

This article is part of a sponsored series in partnership with ‘Circle with Disney’

Parenting in an online world can feel a bit like trying to catch snowflakes in a blizzard – just when you think you’ve protected your child as best you can, there is a new app or feature to cause concern.

Many of today’s children learned to navigate a touch screen before they could walk or talk.  Students in kindergarten or younger are engaged in online educational learning in many schools, and a large percentage of a child’s homework is often done online.

Today’s parents often face this new digital frontier with a mix of trepidation, frustration, and resignation. Facing an ever-changing landscape, parents may feel powerless without adequate knowledge and tools.

In response to this need, companies have begun to offer products and services to help parents manage their child’s time online and help keep them safe.  One of the most comprehensive and user-friendly is Circle with Disney, a $99 simple box that pairs  to a home Wi-Fi and a user-friendly app allows parents to filter content, limit screen time and set a bedtime for every device on the home network.

Some of the many concerns of raising a digital child include negative implications of excess screen time, impact on sleep and overall health, and inappropriate content.

Screen Time:  According to an October 2017 report published by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping families make educated media choices, children aged eight and under spend an average of almost two and a half hours (2:19) per day with screen media.

A similar report published in 2016 revealed that screen times increase exponentially with age, with tweens averaging approximately four and a half hours per day on screen media, and teens averaging a staggering six hours and forty minutes.

Circle with Disney can help parents limit and monitor their children’s time online by allowing them to set specific time limits for each child across all devices.

Circle allows parents to set Time Limits for apps and websites (like Instagram, Netflix and others), as well as whole categories like Games or Social Media. If a child has a daily time limit of three hours per day, parents can decide how much time can be spent on each type of app or website. When the child’s internet or app usage for the day is gone, they get a gentle notification saying that time is up and turns off access for the day.

Circle’s OffTime feature allows parents to schedule times during the day or week where there is no access to the internet at all, such as homework time or simply time to allow kids to engage in “screen-free” play.

For events that may not always be scheduled ahead of time (is dinner always at exactly the same time? Did someone forget to clean their room?), Circle offers a “Pause” button, which can pause the internet for the whole household, or parents can pause specific family members or even specific devices.

Screen Use and Impact on Children’s Sleep Habits: While limiting overall screen time is important, studies have shown that it is also crucial to ensure that children’s screen use is not interfering with their sleep.  With Circle with Disney’s BedTime feature, parents can set a bedtime for each member of the family, after which all devices belonging to the family member are disconnected from the internet. The user will be redirected to their MyCircle page and will receive a gentle “Looks like it’s past your BedTime” reminder.

The devices then automatically reconnect to the internet in the morning at whatever time parents set as that user’s “awake” time.

Inappropriate Content:  To parents, kids’ access to the internet can be scary, given the nature of content available to the even the youngest user at the click of a button.

Circle helps parents protect their children with Filter. Parents have the option of four general filter age levels (Pre-K, Kid, Teen and Adult). These filters come with defaulted settings designed for that age group, but can be easily and quickly customized. Set apps and websites to Allowed or Not Allowed with the touch of a button. And for the stuff that your kids should never see, Circle has you covered with Ad Blocking, Google Safe Search.

As parents are keenly aware, no device or monitoring software can replace open dialogue, awareness, and the setting of family expectations and boundaries about internet usage and safety.  Today’s parents are navigating a brave new world of media options, and their inherent risks, that were simply not available when they were growing up.

Fortunately, tools such as Circle with Disney are available to help parents manage the new digital landscape while keeping their children safe online.