The quiet sends alarms. It's the tell-tale sign something's amiss. It's always in the silence. My house is one of constant energy, buzzing with white noise, walls shaking, bickering, and question asking. This is especially the case when I have given the kids something to do. The kids' standard day consists of picking up, eating, and homeschooling--with a healthy dose of play time shuffled in there as well. None of these activities is done quietly. So when it's silent, I know something's up. Sometimes it's stone cold disobedience. I say read your science textbook, they somehow think that meant while you watch tv, or go pick up your room translates as hide behind the curtains or under the bed to watch WWE on the iPad. Other times, it's something that hits all too close to home for me--a scattered and internet-captivated brain that forgets what task it's on. Like a grasshopper jumping from one off-the-topic thing to the next, Silas walks upstairs to his room with instructions to read a chapter out of a novel and type a summary, but the temptation--like a moth to a flame--is too great to not sneak just a quick peak--lightning fast--over at ebay to scope out the vintage wolverine comic he's been watching, only to emerge an hour later wondering what he was supposed to be doing in the first place. This has produced more than one row (per day) in our home--always accompanied by threats of an iPad and computer-less existence, something we all know is not ever going to actually happen.
The internet and it's endless realm of information is fantastic, it's importance in our everyday life not to be negotiated, but it can be a persistent distraction for us all and can even be terrifying for a parent. Your 9 year old daughter very innocently Googles the most harmless topic one could possibly Google, Disney princesses, and ends up seeing pornography--a real thing we have experienced. The internet is simultaneously my biggest ally and most daunting enemy, regularly leaving me hopeless, feeling there aren't enough ways to monitor my kids' interaction with the World Wide Web. So to feel as if I have a bit more control in a seemingly out-of-control situation is a treasure!
I have been introduced to a new gadget that is doing just that. I call it The Tesseract due to its shape, other-wordly power, and need for harnessing the good of humanity (Thor reference for those of you who do not have two superhero-obsessed boys), but its proper name is Circle. See that little, indiscreet cube below? That's it! It's small but holds ALL the power, hence the Tesseract reference. Circle is a little white box and app that pairs wirelessly to your network, allowing you to manage every connected device in your home. My kids hate it, which should be the first sign of its greatness. With Circle, you can control the internet on each and every device in your home. Like, really control it. With user-friendly Circle app you can put filters on what your kids watch, control whether or not they are on social media or surfing Youtube, set a bedtime when the internet will automatically shut off, view the internet history of each device, and my favorite feature, pause the internet. Pause the internet? That is correct. With Circle, if I want the kids focused on schoolwork or housework without the online distraction, I can very simply pause the internet. And even better, I can pause it on specific devices. So if you want to vedge out to The West Wing while your kids do homework and chores, their internet access paused, you can. Not saying I ever do that, but I definitely do. Unless you are with kids all day everyday, thou shalt not judge.
For someone like myself who is spread thin with responsibility of which I struggle to stay on top of, my kids' internet activity included, Circle is one more tool for better operating the ins and outs of our family life. Because of Circle, there is less worrying, less arguing, more accomplishing, and ironically, more freedom. There is more freedom from internet distraction, more freedom to focus, more freedom to create and learn and explore. There is also freedom from the fear of being found out! When the kids do have access to the internet, they know they are allowed. They aren't anxious about being caught, but instead, know it is internet go-time, and can enjoy it guilt-free.
Part of the complexity of 21st Century parenting is teaching our children how to use electronic devices and the internet in a positive way. I want them to have healthy minds and hearts and to be self-disciplined and task oriented. The Circle isn't a panacea, but if used correctly, it can help create patterns of behavior that can become a lifestyle, helping my kids (and me) better understand when and how to use the internet. When a company sees the challenges parents face and provides a way to better arm us in our efforts, I am always inspired, and for that I very much appreciate Circle.
**This post was sponsored by Circle. All thoughts and opinions are my own.