About a month ago, I purchased the Echo Dot Kids Edition (Green) for my two kids. Mainly, it was for my 4 year-old who loves to dance and ask lots of questions. We have the regular Echo Dot in our living room, so she’s familiar with how it works. This version allows her to use Alexa safely without us, her parents, fearing she’ll access adult skills and music with explicit lyrics.
For those of you not familiar with the Echo Dot, it’s a small device that allows you to access information and apps called Skills through Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa. This device does not have a screen. It functions on voice commands but can be paired up with multiple devices that will make your home smart. For example, you can use it alone to answer simple questions like, “How many ounces are in a cup?”, pair it with a larger speaker and listen to music, or connect it to a lighting system that will allow you to control the lights in a room with just your voice. There are also some controls that can be accessed via the Alexa app on your smartphone.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with a year of FreeTime Unlimited. Not only does this subscription give Amazon devices parental controls, but it also provides kids access to thousands of kid-friendly books, movies, TV shows, music, apps, and games, all depending on the device in use (obviously, movie and TV shows don’t work on the Echo Dot).
The parental controls are in-tune with the needs of parents today. They include options that will limit the amount of time spent listening to music, using apps, watching video, and reading (all on different sliders). Parents can choose to block specific features until after educational goals are met, as well as make the device nonfunctional from bedtime until it’s time to wake. Parents can also choose an age range so kids won’t be exposed to information and entertainment inappropriate for their developmental level. But best of all, there’s an option to lock the device. You know, for when the kids are misbehaving and need to be disciplined.
Parents choose which skills their kids can use on the Echo Dot Kids Edition. The app lets them toggle the skills on and off. It only takes minutes – perfect for the 50th time they’ve opened Box of Kittens (“Meow! Meow! Meow!”).
The parental controls are just what I’ve been look for. My only gripe is that I would really like to be able to exclude skills from the time limits. One of my reasons for buying the Echo Dot was to reduce the number of electronics in the kids’ room to make it safer. My oldest daughter loves to listen to one of the local radio stations while she sleeps. They have a skill, and I’d like to exclude it from the bedtime cutoff so it can play all night.
One of the fears that every parent has when a kid is using a WiFi connected device is that they’ll access messaging and contact someone they shouldn’t or make an unapproved purchase, especially a costly one. Parents don’t need to worry about that on the Echo Dot Kids Edition, because they control the extent to which kids can communicate and buy things via the FreeTime app.
Purchases are only available on certain Amazon Fire Tablets when turned on, not this version of the Echo Dot. I left messaging on, so I can drop in on their Alexa while I’m at work. It’s one more way for me to check on them. It’s also a great way to distract them when I hear them start fighting from the other room (“What are you two doing?”).
I love the fact that the Alexa app shows me how much time my kids have spent doing things in the categories of Books, Audible, Music, Skills, etc. It also shows me exactly what they’ve been asking Alexa and the skills they’ve accessed. Not only does it provide an additional level of monitoring, but it helps me figure out what my daughter was trying to do and what Alexa actually did (Alexa is helping her learn how to enunciate). If she comes across a song she really likes, I have a record so she can play it again later.
One thing to keep in mind: if you have two Echo Dots, you need to have the family plan for Amazon Music to be able to ask Alexa to play music at the same time as the other Echo Dot. We can only afford the single subscription, so for now the girls play other apps when we listen to music on the “adult Echo”.
Overall, I’m very happy with the Echo Dot Kids Edition. My 4 year-old loves the freedom to play games and ask questions whenever she wants. I think there definitely needs to be more well-developed skills (not just a whole skill devoted to Elephant facts or poop jokes). I think that will come in time, and I look forward to seeing what developers come up with.
Looking for fun Echo Dot skills for kids? Here are 10 Alexa Skills that my kids have loved so far:
Disney Stories (Premium Alexa Skill included with Kids Edition)
Have you tried out the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition? Is there a particular skill that your kids love? Share it in the comments!