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What parents need to know
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What's it about?
AMAZON FREETIME requires families to create a "Household" on at least one parent account; up to two parents can be attached to any Household. They can then add up to four kids with their ages so each one can have their own age-appropriate content. Once that is set up appropriately and the app is installed and connected to an adult's Amazon account, they can begin to customize settings for each child. Though it will automatically set the content based on the age provided, parents can adjust the settings up or down based on their kids' needs and their family's values. To shut down device use, parents can set a range of time (called bedtime) when kids aren't able to use the device and can set time goals for the use of educational content, though there's no way to specify exactly what the educational content is. They can even check a box that won't allow kids to use any content until they've met the educational goals. Also, parents can limit screen time as a whole or limit the amount of time spent reading, watching videos, using apps, or browsing the web. To get even more specific, these can be broken down between weekday limits and weekend limits. There's also an app-based web browser that parents can entirely disable or limit by adding specific URLs and web-based videos. If they want to check on what their kids are seeing, they can check the browsing history. Parents who want more fine-grained options can add certain books, videos, websites, and apps that the kids can access from the device or online. Lastly, they can set restrictions on in-app purchases.
In terms of the kids' experience, they can't search but can browse by characters (Dora, Harry Potter, and so on) and topics (Adventure, Science). They also can see their goals, if any, and when they meet them. If they have a block on non-educational content, they can only see the apps, videos, books, and sites they are allowed to enjoy at the time. For safety purposes, kids can access an emergency phone-dialing option.
Is it any good?
This fantastic set of parental controls is finely tuned and specific enough for all members of the family, but compatibility with more devices would be helpful. Amazon FreeTime is exactly what parents of young kids want: It locks down the device and creates a safe free-exploration zone for kids. The content is moderated by Amazon based on age, but parents have additional options for choosing exactly what their kids can -- and can't -- see. Even better, they can provide age-appropriate media for your 6-year-old, while also catering to your 3-year-old, all on the same device. Once all the settings are in place, the kids' area really shines. It's easy to navigate, and older kids will enjoy the goal-setting as an inspiration to spend more time on educational content. While it's great to have the emergency access, it would be great to have a simple gate for really little kids. And the ability to specify what you consider educational content would be nice. But overall, it's just the sort of thing to make parents' lives easier, especially when the kids are young and especially if parents help guide kids to regulate themselves as they grow.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about using screen time wisely. Help kids think about the time they have and what they would enjoy doing most. They can even make their own screen-time budget to ensure they have time for all the things they want to enjoy. How might Amazon FreeTime help?
Talk about what content kids love the most. What is their favorite thing to do, watch, or read in the the app? Why?
Discuss how to use the parent controls less and less over time so kids learn how to regulate themselves.
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
- Subjects: Language & Reading: reading, storytelling, vocabulary
Science: animals, ecosystems, weather
Social Studies: cultural understanding, history
Arts: dance, music
- Price: Free to try
- Pricing structure: Free to try (free to download, $2.99/month)
- Release date: May 16, 2017
- Category: Entertainment
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Music and Sing-Along, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Publisher: Amazon Mobile LLC
- Version: 3.7
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 9.3 or later; Android 5.0 and up
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