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The Cousins are Coming to Visit. With their Smartphones.

It’s one of the highlights of summer—the cousins from California come to visit us for a week.

It’s one of the highlights of summer—the cousins from California come to visit us for a week. Our three boys are thrilled to hang out with their wacky relatives. And the cousins are excited to fly up here—without their parents!—and spend some time in Oregon exploring the forests and the mountains and the rivers.

There are some issues, of course—and one of the biggest is screen time. Naturally, the cousins bring their own devices. Now how do I prevent the kids from clustering around whoever’s got the coolest game and gluing themselves to it all morning? And how do I keep an eye on the websites they visit at night?

Hello, Circle.

Before the cousins even got here, I explained to their parents about how we use Circle to manage our family network. The Home Profile allows us to set filters or time limits for all the devices that are connected to our Wi-Fi. In other words, we can pause the entire internet at midnight. Or filter, say, gambling sites. This is a great way to set up ground rules that apply to every device that joins the network, whether it be Nana’s new iPad or a smartphone that belongs to one of my soccer buddies. You don’t have to do anything special—it just works.

But that’s really just the start. Circle also lets us customize each kid’s internet experience. For example, Aaron, who’s nine years old, is really into Minecraft. And Katelyn, who’s almost 16, loves watching shows on her iPad, specifically Pitch Perfect.

After dinner their first night with us, we talked with the cousins about Circle and worked out an arrangement we could all live with. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about this conversation beforehand, because I wasn’t sure how they would react. But I needn’t have worried. The cousins were very agreeable, and they appreciated the fact that we support them enjoying screens on their vacation—within limits.

For Aaron, we set a daily time limit of two hours for online games so that he doesn’t spend the whole day fighting Endermen in the bunkbed. We also agreed that we’d pause his internet at 9 p.m. so the boys go to sleep at a decent hour (plus which, they need time for pillow fights!)

Katelyn gets to stay up later than that, of course. We’re fine with her watching Pitch Perfect and we don’t see any need to manage her shows, but we agreed to pause her internet at 11 p.m.—unless, of course, there’s a cliffhanger we all just have to see tonight.

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