Protect Your Family Online with The Circle: Part 2
Church planting is taxing on your family. You have a demanding schedule. You long to pastor your family well, but man is it tough.
Ever been here? Your wife has to head out. You’re in charge of the kids. But you also need to get a few things knocked out for the church. So you hand over a smartphone or tablet to buy you some time. Your kiddos instinctively know how to use it before they can form sentences. What they don’t know is how to control it so it doesn’t control them—or worse, harm them.
What if there was a simple way to control and monitor what streams into your home? There is. It’s called Circle. Circle pairs with your router and enables you to control the devices and computers connected to the internet in your home. And it’s easy.
Last time, I urged you to grab one on sale for $79 from Amazon. If you didn’t, no worries. It only cost $99 and is worth every penny. I shared 3 Things I Like About Circle for my Family. And as promised, I am going to give you a few pointers so you can manage your devices like a pro…pastor-dad.
5 Tips for Setting Up Circle
If your family is like mine, you can wind up with more devices than an Apple Store. Here are some techie tips I’ve learned along the way. (For the record, I’ve got two teens and one elementary age child…a grand total of three if you crunch the numbers.)
1. Follow the Directions from Circle.
Circle setup is straightforward, even if technology frightens you (or your spouse). I found the experience much like an Apple product (IE ‘It just works’). I was able to set mine up in a matter of minutes.
Here are two things to keep in mind when you set yours up.
First, place it right next to, or very near your wireless router. I have a combo wireless router/cable modem. If you have a modem/DSL router and then a separate wireless router coming out of that, set your Circle right by the wireless router. This will keep things zippy.
Second, Circle has a rechargeable battery. Plug it in and leave it plugged in. That’s so it stays on even if someone unplugs it. (Looking at you, teenager.) But beware. If your internet connection is lost, like a power outage or storm, your phone may still connect to Circle and think it’s online. It may also ‘appear’ online (IE show a ‘connected’ icon for your wifi). Just turn off wifi on your smartphone to use data until your cable modem or DSL router reestablishes a connection with the internet.
2. Start with Circle’s profiles and tweak them as needed.
Circle comes with profiles for each member of your family like pre-k, kid, teen, adult. Start with these and then customize any apps or content from their extensive list. For example, you might turn Snapchat off/on for your teen. But there’s a good chance you can just run with the profile settings as-is.
3. AFTER you talk with your family, set up time limits.
Chat with your family. Then pick a time limit setting, but let them know this is only a starting point. Circle lets you choose overall limits (like 6 hours a day) and app-specific limits (like 2 hours of Netflix per day). I like the app-specific function to curb particular habits of my teens. Finally, keep talking with your family and adjust as needed. You don’t want to be Cap’n Pharisee…like I did.
Note, if you have teens and they have phones, you’ll want to have another conversation. Talk with them about data usage on their phones. Circle would cut my teens off when they’re time was up. Then they’d head over to data and keep streaming. They’ve gone over their allotted monthly data a few times. (Ouch!) So we keep having the discussion about why we have Circle to begin with. (Fun times.)
4. Create a generic family profile for friends of your kids.
I created a generic family member profile called ‘Friends’ on Circle. This generic ‘Friends’ profile is set to Circle’s filter level of ‘Teen’. Now, when my teens have teen friends who come over I get an immediate alert from Circle that a new device is on the network. I quickly add those new devices to the ‘Friends’ profile. And I only have to this once. When they come back over, their device is already associated with ‘Friends.’
5. Consider a generic family profile for gaming systems.
My kids have gaming systems too, like XBox, etc. I created a separate family member profile called ‘Curfew’ and set the filter profile to ‘Teen’. I then set the bedtime of my older teen to a little later than that of his iPhone. In the summer, he and his buddies stay up and play online computer games together. For example, his iPhone time ends at 11pm, while the computer he plays games on with his buddies usually ends at 11:30pm.
You don’t have to be stuck in frustration. Setting up Circle right can help you manage how your family uses the internet at home. It only takes a few minutes. You can pastor your family well in this critical area with help from Jesus and a great tool like Circle.
I have no idea how our parents managed without the built-in babysitter of endless media streaming on endless devices into the tiny hands of infants. Seriously, it is oh-so-easy to allow a screen to capture the hearts and imaginations of our kids so we can ‘get some work done.’ My response to this realization can be a pharisaical knee-jerk reaction to grab a great tool like Circle and then feel extra-holy for ‘taking a stand for righteousness.’ The problem is, I often do it to feel better about myself as a dad. And then, when my kids revolt, super-dad turns into super-jerk.
Jesus is pure. He doesn’t rub it in. He doesn’t gloat. But he is righteous…perfectly righteous. Faced with all the same temptations I face as a dad, he trusted the Father over pleasure, comfort, ease, misaligned priorities and excuses. While Circle can practically help me carry out my responsibilities as a father to ‘pastor’ my family, it cannot touch my super-jerk heart. Jesus’ love alone can overcome the bent of my heart to give in to pleasure, comfort, ease, pride, and my failed attempts at self-righteous fathering. He can transform my heart, and he alone is the hope for the heart of my kids.