Widgets Magazine

A Last Minute Gift… for You

As we are all hustling through the next few days and weeks, wrapping up holiday gift buying and wrapping those presents, let me make a suggestion for parents and those that wish to monitor their network a bit more. The Disney Circle. A couple of disclaimers before we move on. Disney didn’t pay me nor did they provide a free device. I bought mine on Amazon. My network is setup and maintained by myself. If you need help doing so, please contact a qualified network admin, integrator, or a really smart friend.
The Circle is a network device that allows you to monitor all the devices on your network in a relatively easy to understand interface on your smart phone. At last check, it was selling for $81 on Amazon. According to the Circle website, you can also get them at Target, Best Buy, B&H, and others.
The device itself is wireless. Once plugged into an outlet, you open the app and set about setting up the profiles and permissions. This is the most time consuming process if you are like us and have roughly 40 devices connected to our home network. Yeah, I didn’t know I had that many either until I plugged this thing in. There’s a bit of investigating as some devices don’t always tell you the manufacturer but they all have a MAC address. Since my phone is labeled “Tim’s phone” then that was pretty easy. I placed it under my profile. The other profiles are for my wife, daughter, son, “home” in general, and unknown. I’ll get to unknown in a bit.
Once these categories are set you start assigning the devices to each member of the home. My wife’s phone goes under her, each of my children’s Rokus go to them. Devices such as the Nest, cable box, Alexa, and others are set to our Home profile. Once the devices have been placed in the categories you can start limiting and monitoring your children’s screen time. We have it set for the network to shut off at bedtime and to go back on after they have gotten up and ready for school. There are also limits on how much time during the day they can spend on those devices. Once they have reached the time in total, the network shuts off. You also have the option of filtering out specific apps such as YouTube, Musical.ly, or others. It’s entirely up to you.
The Unknown category is there, for us at least, because when a device comes onto our network sometimes I don’t have time to immediately investigate what it is. It gets thrown there where it has no network access. Then I can check out the MAC address, find out what it is, and realize my Nest has been placed there for some reason. Which is what I discovered recently.
In the past I had set up similar time restrictions with my kids’ devices based on their MAC or IP addresses through my router. Not a great interface but definitely effective. It did not have a total screen time option, though, and that was the selling point of the Circle. What I bought as a device to help me manage my children’s screen time has actually turned into a good network management device in general. This is not a replacement for high level network monitoring. For someone that doesn’t have a CCNA, it might be just the thing to get you started monitoring what’s going on your home network.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week.

About Author

Tim Albright is the founder of AVNation and is the driving force behind the AVNation network. He carries the InfoComm CTS, a B.S. from Greenville College and is pursuing an M.S. in Mass Communications from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. When not steering the AVNation ship, Tim has spent his career designing systems for churches both large and small, Fortune 500 companies, and education facilities.

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