The Bottom Line: Pricey, but Great for Controlling Screen Time
Disney Circle Home Plus’s premium features like time limits and location tracking are a big selling point for the device, but at over $100 a year, they cost more than similar services like Net Nanny and others featured on our Parental Control Guide. Circle’s basic features are very similar to the parental controls you can already access for free with most routers and streaming services, making the $129 price tag a little excessive.
Internet pause button
High monthly fees
Poor location tracking
Circle Home Plus Pricing
$9.99/mo. after first year
Custom content filters Usage tracking Browsing history
Basic features plus: Pause internet Time limits Location tracking Rewards Bedtime Off time
The Circle device itself has a clean, modern look to it, with more rounded edges than the original Disney Circle. It uses cloud-based storage to manage your profile info, which lets it work faster and more reliably. It also has a backup battery so that even if a disgruntled child unplugs it, it will still work without a hitch.
The bad news about the Circle Home Plus improvements is that if you’re an original Disney Circleuser who wants to upgrade to the new Circle Home Plus platform, you’ll have to start all over again. You’ll need to download a new app, create new profiles, and set new filter preferences. It’s concerning when companies introduce new technology that isn’t compatible with older technology, because it means future updates might be just as inconvenient and costly for current users.
What’s in the Box:
Circle Plus device
Quick start guide
Installation and Setup
Installing the Circle Plus is easy. Just plug it into your router and a power source. Scanning the QR code pairs the device with your phone. The Circle automatically recognizes all Wi-Fi enabled devices on your network and puts them into your list of devices. Each will be categorized as “unmanaged” until you link it to Home or to a specific child’s profile.
But setting up the app on your smartphone and your kids’ devices is time consuming. The tricky thing is that the devices have unrecognizable names (example: Android-1, Motorola Device, Apple Device, etc.) Tech support suggests looking under each device’s information to find its identifying MAC number and then searching through the devices on the Circle app list to match them up, which is what I did. Fortunately, with smartphones you can just download the Circle Plus app to the phone and then scan the QR code to link it to the Circle.
Once you’ve created profiles for each family member and connected your family’s devices, you can assign devices to manage to each person’s profile. The only catch is that a single device can’t be assigned to more than one profile. This was problematic for us, as my four kids share a laptop for schoolwork and videos. I worked around it by creating a separate profile just to manage the computer itself, but it makes it harder to set age-appropriate filters and time limits. When time is up, kids can just switch to another device and keep surfing.
Circle Home Plus Features
Circle Home Plus comes with basic features and premium features. We tested all of these to see how well they worked.
Custom content filters, usage tracking, and browsing history: Filtering worked perfectly, and the timed usage tracking worked well also, but it tracks only in five-minute increments.
Screenshot of Circle Plus app content filters.
Browsing history wasn’t very specific: it showed dozens of random web addresses, and when I clicked on them I was often taken to mostly blank websites. Also, the history would say “youtube.com,” but I couldn’t see what videos were accessed, or what parts of a site were viewed.
Screenshot of Circle Plus app browsing history tab.
Location tracking: Sadly, this was a major fail for the Circle Home Plus. It showed my son’s phone as being in the North Atlantic Ocean just south of Africa, and it listed the date as December 31, 1969. Unless my son’s phone can bend time and space, it was clearly not accurate. The location tracking worked better for my daughter’s phone, even though they have the exact same Android models.
Rewards: The Rewards feature was an easy way to add extra time to my kids’ devices, and I think calling it a “reward” in their app makes it more effective for encouraging good behavior and a better work ethic. However, the reward notifications usually came up only on Android smartphones, not on iOS devices.
How Circle Plus Stacks Up
Number of Devices
Circle Home Plus
Kaspersky Safe Kids
Router device and mobile app
Free for first year, $9.99 after
1 desktop computer
Filtering History Time limits/curfews Location tracking Internet pause Rewards
Filtering History Time limits/curfews Location tracking Social media monitoring Text and call screening App blocking Website alerts Geofencing
Filtering History Time limits/curfews App monitoring App blocking
Data effective 7/3/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.
Compared to other top parental control options, Circle Home Plus is pricier and doesn’t offer as many features, like social media monitoring or geofencing. The little white box also adds an additional gadget to your home electronics setup, while other services are completely software-based.
On the plus side, it does have a more fun, user-friendly interface that has been specifically designed with parenting in mind, with terms like “rewards” and “bedtime” that reflect the parent/child relationship. We also like Circle Home Plus’s unique internet pause feature.
How does the Disney Circle Home Plus work?
Circle Home Plus actually uses the same methods that hackers use, specifically a technique called ARP spoofing. ARP spoofing is a type of Man in the Middle (or MITM) “attack.” Simply explained, Circle intercepts data on your network before it reaches iOS and Android devices. It compares the data to the preferences you’ve set to decide whether or not the data should go through.
Will Circle protect my devices from viruses and malware?
Yes and no. Circle is designed to ensure that your kids bypass unsafe sites where malware and viruses may be lurking, but it’s not specifically designed to manage viral attacks on your computer. For software that specifically targets hacking attacks, check out our Best Anti-Malware and Antivirus Guide.
Can I use a VPN on a device managed by Circle?
No. A VPN hides a device’s activity from all outside sources, including the Circle device, and will prevent content filtering. If your child is tech smart, you can enable VPN filtering on Circle to prevent your child from adding a VPN to their device.
If you’re like me, and you just want to keep your kids safe online and set reasonable limits on screen time, the Circle Home Plus is probably overkill. It costs more than you really need to pay for a parental control service, and it has fewer options than similar services.
But if internet time is a major currency in your home and you want your kids to know when they’ve earned more time, and if you want to have more scheduling control over when the internet is used (rather than just setting time limits), then the Circle Home Plus might be a good choice for you.
How We Reviewed Disney Circle Home Plus
To test the Circle Home Plus, we connected it to a home router and installed the parental control app on a parent’s iPhone. We downloaded the kids’ app to two teenagers’ Android phones. We also connected two laptops and an older model iPhone to the app for monitoring. We tested the various features in a family/home setting with two teenagers and two elementary school-aged kids for over a week. To learn more about how we test and review products at SafeWise, check out our full methodology.
Kasey is a trained Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and a freelance writer with expertise in emergency preparedness and security. As the mother of four kids, including two teens, Kasey knows the safety concerns parents face as they raise tech-savvy kids in a connected world, and she loves to research the latest security options for her own family and for SafeWise readers. Learn more