Your Life: Device helps disconnect to keep families connected

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
VIDEO: Meet Circle
Today's online world has us connected in so many ways, but that can often lead families feeling disconnected.

Today's online world has us connected in so many ways, but that can often lead families feeling disconnected.

In this week's "Your Life", we visited a family using a new product that is designed not only as a tool to enforce internet safety, but to promote limits on screen time.

The system is called Meet Circle and it's a filtering device meant to help families make the most of technology without having it completely take over.

"We really felt we needed something that we could police the internet and keep them safe," Heather Lackey said.

Lackey's 11- and 8-year-old boys are not only tech savvy, but attend a cyber school.

iPads, computers and gaming consoles are a part of their everyday life.

So Heather got Meet Circle, a small device connected to your wireless router and managed through an app.

"Each of my family has a profile and they have limits and filters set according to their ages," Lackey said.

So every device that her kids use is connected to their profile so the set parameters stay the same even if the device their using changes. Heather not only customizes the filters, but she limits screen time and sets a bedtime so they can't access the internet past a certain hour.

"If it's dinner time and they are using their screens and I call them and they don't answer, I can just go into my app and pause the internet. And then of course they are like 'Mom!' and then they come running," Lackey said.

Internet safety expert Rob D'Ovidio also says there are ways around Meet Circle, but the program is set up so that if parameters are changed, the parent or person in charge of the account is notified by the service.

While there are other devices similar to Meet Circle, he says an added service for the device called Circle Go sets it apart.

"One of the criticisms of these types of solutions is that it doesn't follow the user everywhere he or she goes but Meet Circle does do that," D'Ovidio said.

While the Lackeys say Meet Circle is a useful tool, they agree with internet safety expert D'Ovidio that it can't work alone.

"There is no substitution for talk and discussion," Lackey said.

The device costs $99.

If you add Circle Go, you pay about $10 a month for a subscription.

Right now, Meet Circle isn't compatible with Android, but the company says that is coming soon.

There are other devices like Meet Circle that I've listed on my Facebook page, but none of them seem to include all the services this particular device does.