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Disney and Circle Want to Make the Internet Safe for Your Kids

Meet Circle With Disney, a box that connects to your Wi-Fi network and lets you control where your kids go on the Net. (Photo: Circle Media).

It’s every parent’s enduring headache: How do you keep your digitally savvy kids safe from the dark underbelly of the Net or spending every waking moment glued to a screen?

Today, tech startup Circle Media is unveiling a $100 device that claims to offer near-total control over every device in your home network, as well as direct access to a trove of content from Walt Disney Studios.

Circle With Disney is a 3.25-inch cube that connects wirelessly to your home network and works with an app on your phone. Once installed, the device detects every gizmo that accesses your Wi-Fi network. Using the iOS app, you can assign each gadget to different members of the household and create profiles for everyone in your family. So the tweens can operate under one set of rules, the teens under another, while Mom and Dad continue to enjoy the full bounty of Internet weirdness.

You can also create rules to limit how much time your little nubbins spend on the Web and shut it down at bedtime.

Related: How This Special Router Turned Me Into a Total Internet Tyrant

Functionally, Circle sounds extremely similar to the Skydog router, which offered impressive controls for managing home networks (until it was purchased by Comcast in June 2014 and then disappeared from the earth).

How Circle With Disney works 

The Circle device doesn’t replace your router. Instead, it connects wirelessly to your existing box, then uses a technique called Address Resolution Protocol spoofing to ‘fool’ devices into thinking they’re talking to the router. Requests for websites are filtered by the Circle, then get passed through the router onto the Internet.

An iOS app lets you control every aspect of your family’s Internet experience — the sites they can visit and the time they can spend doing it — from your iPhone.

The Disney part comes in the form of curated content. Using the MyCircle portal, your young’uns will be able to access vast troves of family-friendly fare stored in the Disney cloud, including brief video clips, GIFs, games, and music starring some of their favorite Disney characters. However, according to a Disney spokeshuman, the content won’t include full movies or TV shows.

Kids won’t be limited to just viewing materials produced by the Maus Haus, either, says Circle founder Jeloni Memory.

“We’re not out to hijack your kids’ Internet experience,” he said via a phone interview. “Kids can still go where they want to go on the Web [within limits], while parents can create a curated experience for them. We’ve created a dashboard that lets them dive into content they want and see how long they’ve been online and where they’ve gone.”

Circle’s curated Disney content will feature familiar characters and brands, but not full shows — at least, at first.

The companies also announced plans to release a mobile app called Circle Go that applies the same controls to your kids’ phones when they’re out of the house. That will be coming early next year. An Android version of the Circle mobile app will also be coming in 2016, but the company has not announced a timetable for that.

(Note: Yahoo Tech has not had a chance to put hands on this product; look for a full review coming soon.)

This story has been updated to include more information about the curated content available from Disney.

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You can find Dan Tynan lurking on Twitter.