Where Does the Online Time Go?
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Where Does the Online Time Go?

Looking for the full story on your family’s device use? See how to use Circle’s Usage feature to identify—and address—family time online.

In a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, Amy Rivers shares the story of when she realized her 14-year-old son was sleeping in later than usual. When she looked a little deeper, she discovered he had taken one of her old iPhones and set up a new account without her knowing—the phone still worked on their home WiFi network. He used the phone to download Snapchat to make new friends.

For parents, Ms. Rivers’ story is not unfamiliar right now. Many have also found themselves struggling with kids sneaking around to get online. Circle can help parents like Rivers detect when any new device joins their network. In her case, Circle would have instantly sent a notification alerting that a new device was attempting to log on to her home network—possibly leading to an earlier discovery of her son’s attempts to get online with an unapproved app.

Circle’s parental controls can help prevent mischievous behavior online, but it can also help families address the screen time problem in a more head-on approach. Instead of having your kids sneak around you, you can set boundaries and guidelines for how to use screen time more effectively.

“Nobody is going to argue, especially in the age of COVID-19, that technology is bad or not useful,” said Dr. David Greenfield, an expert on technology and Internet addiction, in a recent interview. “But people need to make a decision about the quality of time they want to spend. Apps like Circle help people limit, monitor, or block their ability [to get online].”

A key to understanding what might take up so much of your family’s screen time is Circle’s Usage feature. Usage gives detailed insights into how your family spends their time online by the day, week, even month—giving you everything from a birds-eye view of their activity to a granular view by category and time spent per app. From there, you can monitor or even further manage app or category use. Feel like someone is spending too much time on Instagram? Simply adjust their Time Limit. Want to let your kid keep listening to their favorite music? Set that streaming app to Unmanaged so they can continue learning uninterrupted.

Having data to back up the screen time talk with your family can make life easier. You can approach your kids about their device use without putting them on the defensive—and make them a part of the conversation. And while kids need to have someone watching out for them, parents need the occasional reality check, too, so they can watch out for “Doomscrolling,” or getting locked into forever thumbing through news feeds and notifications. (It’s good for everyone to set limits!)

If you watch something with your family and it's part of your family entertainment, than that might be considered more bonding time than it is screen time.


Of course, not all screen time is equal. “If you watch something with your family and it’s part of your family entertainment, then that might be considered more bonding time than it is screen time,” says Dr. Greenfield. “However, if you binge 10 episodes of a TV show, absolutely, that’s screen time.”

Dr. Greenfield points out that some research shows that people—kids and teens included—spend up to six to eight hours a day on screens. By the end of an average lifespan, that can be as much as 10 years!

“Are you going to care about those 10 years?” he asks. “Or are you worried that you’re going to miss that time spent not living?”

Circle’s Usage can help give you and your family that time back. Find out more about Circle’s robust parental controls features and purchase one today.

Learn more from Dr. Greenfield on how to prevent screen time from causing other parts of our lives from becoming unbalanced or unmanageable.

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