AMAZON IS BRINGING the Alexa experience to a generation of vulnerable kids with the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition.
The rugged, brightly coloured versions of the Alexa-powered device follow in the tradition of the Fire Kids' tablets that are already available both here and across the pond.
The Kids Echo Dot is the same product but housed in a brightly coloured rubber bumper case. It also comes with a replacement guarantee for two years, so even if the kids decide to use it as a singing hockey puck, you're covered - no questions, no quibbles.
There's also a year's subscription to new service Amazon FreeTime Unlimited in the box. This means parental controls, and free access to a range of kiddy content - Audible books, ad-free radio stations that probably play One Direction and songs from Frozen, premium skills from Disney, Nickelodeon and NatGeo and custom alarms with characters from their favourite franchises.
FreeTime means kids can't shop, link accounts, access the news and other things that they might abuse, or might upset them. Parents will also be able to limit Alexa access by time limits.
There's also a Parent Dashboard, which lets you see what the kids have been up to, and delete the kids' voices if fraction-second voice snippets are a worry.
FreeTime is free with the Unlimited version with tons of content usually $3 a month. So let's do the maths - $36 value for the FreeTime stuff (which you can get on any other Alexa device, for the record) and then the cost of the rubber casing. Oh yes, and peace of mind about giving the kids a hi-tech gadget. It costs you an extra $30 on top of the standard Echo Dot (so $80).
The reality is that if you're going to have Alexa in the house, the kids are going to want to use it, so it may as well be on your terms. A cynic might argue, however, that this is another example of a corporation getting kids into the behaviours it wants them to have at an early age, like selling brightly coloured cigarettes.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. After all the fact you can set it to respond with positive reinforcement for kids who say "please" and "thank you" to it is a quiet piece of genius. A software rollout will also add this function to other Echo devices running Freetime in due course.
But with all that said, we've confirmed with Amazon UK that there are no current plans to launch the Amazon Kids Edition here. We'd usually say "but that will change eventually" but in reality, a number of hardware lines from Amazon haven't made it over here at all (thus far) so we may see it, we may not. µ
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