Find Screen Time Balance During Distance Learning
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Find Screen Time Balance During Distance Learning

Circle’s VP of Product shares her best Circle tips.

We asked Katie Mills, VP of Product, to share her best tips, tricks, and hacks to get the most out of Circle. Read along to learn about her personal hacks for using Circle with her family.

Many of us are experiencing the new normal with school age kids at home. I have 11- and 13-year-old boys. These past few weeks, both of my kids have been home from school and my husband and I are navigating working from home. We’ve been relying on Circle Home Plus more than ever to manage the increased need for Internet usage while maintaining a healthy balance of on and offline time for everyone.

Create a “school” profile

We had an old laptop sitting around, so we assigned it to our 11-year-old to use for school assignments and educational sites. We created a new profile called “School” specifically for this laptop so we could manage it differently than we do his iPad—his normal “for fun” screen time device. Just like the other devices for our family, we set up Filters, Bedtime, and Time Limits, so it could be locked down for the one purpose. I recommend starting with more restrictions in place than less. That way, you can slowly start loosening the restrictions until only the appropriate school related sites are allowed. This approach also works well for managing shared devices that multiple kids will be using.

Time Limits for specific apps (AKA “YouTube” blocker)

After day 2 of homeschooling, I could tell from his history that my 11-year-old was taking a lot of YouTube “breaks.” So, we set a 30-minute Time Limit on YouTube to minimize distractions during the school day. Another option is to set YouTube to “Not Allowed,” but some teachers use YouTube in their instruction and hey, everyone needs a stress break once in a while.

Exclude school-related sites from time limits (AKA “Homework Mode”)

For my 13-year-old, we excluded a few school-related sites that he frequently was accessing from management: Khan Academy and Google Docs. We did this by viewing his History, clicking on the site, and selecting “Set as Unmanaged.” You can also add sites from the Filter screen using the “funnel icon” in the upper right-hand corner. This hack is really useful, particularly if you don’t have a dedicated device for schoolwork or you don’t want your normal Time Limits to impede schoolwork.

Note: when using the Unmanaged filter, the particular website you’ve “Set as Unmanaged” will always be accessible even during Off Times, Bedtimes, Pauses, or when Time Limits have been reached. In other words, these sites could always be accessed.

Pause and Off Times

With my husband and I both working from home on screens and kids doing online school for part of the day, we try to make time for non-screen time activities we can all do together: preparing and enjoying dinner, playing a board game, going on a family walk outside with the dog. The “whole home” Pause the Internet® button on the Circle App’s home screen is a good way to alert everyone that it’s time to get off the Internet (spouses in particular…). You can also create custom Internet Off Times during the day for these activities.


If you haven’t used rewards before, now is a good time to test out this feature. Rewards let you give extra time to kids—either total Internet time or for specific apps—without having to permanently change your pre-set daily screen time limits. We are using Rewards to encourage our kids to help with chores around the house, exercise, or just get outside and enjoy some fresh air.

Sharing an account with your partner

Lastly, if you’re like me and tend to be the “Monitor in Chief” of screen time, you may need some help managing family screen time, now more than ever. I installed the Circle App on my husband’s phone and signed in with my account, using my email and password. Now, he can also give rewards, manage apps, and monitor our kids’ screen time while I work or simply get some “alone” time.

This hack is a good one regardless and will hopefully be a good one to continue post-social distancing. Just don’t forget to set a Lock Pin in the Circle App settings so the control won’t get into the wrong hands!

For more information, be sure to check out Circle’s Resources page and sign up to our newsletter. Pick up your own Circle Home Plus here to manage every Wi-Fi device on your home network and mobile devices wherever they go.

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