Amazon is trying to make it easy for both kids and parents to use Alexa in their daily lives with the help of the new Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime services for Alexa.
Following the same formula adopted in Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablets, the Echo Dot Kids Edition is a standard Echo Dot. It is bundled with a protective rubber casing (available in red, green, or blue), a year’s subscription to the FreeTime Unlimited service, and a two-year old-questions-asked, device-replacement promise from Amazon. It is priced at $79.99 because of the added $30 premium over a standard Echo Dot. Today it will be available for preorder, and shipments will start on May 9th.
Just like a two-year-old standard Echo Dot, Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition has seven far-field microphones for picking up voice commands, a built-in speaker for Alexa’s voice responses or music playback, and the ability to connect via Bluetooth or an audio cable to a larger speaker.
The new FreeTime service that comes preactivated is the feature that makes the Echo Dot Kids Edition unique. It adds parental controls, kid-friendly content, and an optimized experience for kids to Alexa. Although it can be purchased separately for existing Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus devices, it’s still not clear if or when FreeTime will be available on third-party Alexa devices, like the Sonos One.
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FreeTime on Alexa provides the basic free service, which includes parental controls. It also provides the FreeTime Unlimited service, with added access to “over 300” kid-appropriate Audible audiobooks; ad-free, kid-friendly radio stations from iHeartRadio Family; premium Alexa skills from Disney, Nickelodeon, and National Geographic; and custom character alarms from Disney, Nickelodeon, and more.
A year of FreeTime Unlimited comes preloaded with the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition and the Fire Tablet Kids Edition. It can also be purchased separately at $2.99 per month per child for Prime customers.
The basic FreeTime blocks certain Alexa features, such as shopping, news, and linking third-party external accounts (such as Uber or Domino’s). Its parental control allows parents to set time limits on daily Alexa usage and pause Alexa access. The Parent Dashboard will display which songs, skills, and Audible books are accessed on Alexa. Also, it allows parents to delete any recordings. The ability to block explicit songs from playing via Alexa will also be available for Subscribers to Amazon Music.
Upon parental request to help children learn politeness, The FreeTime feature Magic Word – which provides positive reinforcement when kids use the word please when asking Alexa to do something – was built. The recently released Follow-Up feature provides an opportunity to thank Alexa after completing a task that is also only available in FreeTime.
According to Amazon spokespeople, FreeTime is custom-made on Amazon Alexa for kids aged five to 12, and most of the skills and features are appropriate for ages five to nine.