Amazon has released a Kids Edition of the Amazon Echo Dot, which is designed to help children use its Alexa smart speaker. Aimed at ages 5 to 12, the Kids Edition includes safety features, special content and the requirement to say “please” after requests.
It’s essentially just a standard Amazon Echo Dot with a jazzy, rubberised case available in red, green or blue. There’s also a two-year no-questions-asked warranty for damages. Under the hood there’s all the same tech, including the far-field microphone array. That microphone array is also geared towards kids, with common child mispronunciations (like ‘Awexa’) tuned in.
Essential reading: Complete guide to Amazon Alexa
There’s a $30 premium for the Kids Edition of the Amazon Echo Dot, with it set to retail for $79.99 instead of the standard $49.99.
But the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition is more about the software features. It debuts with the new Amazon FreeTime service, which is essentially a parental controls app that governs use of the speaker.
There are two levels: a free and paid-for version of FreeTime. The basic freebie offers parental control features, enabling parents/guardians to block off features such as adding items to shopping lists, which we’re sure will be a relief to anyone.
The paid-for tier – of which you get a free year when purchasing an Echo Dot for kids – blocks content with adult elements (sweary music and the like) – and opens up selections of kids audiobooks from Audible, ad-free stations from iHeartRadio and character-based skills and alarms. You can get FreeTime separately for $2.99 a month.
You can also see what they've been up to and tweak settings via the new Amazon Parental Dashboard, which was announced earlier this month for Fire tablets.
And parents who despair over their kids barking demands at Alexa will be delighted by the “Magic Word” feature that requires adding a “please” to commands, before Alexa will respond. That should please Ambient director Paul, who opined about that very feature for his two-year-old daughter, who for a time believed Alexa to be an omni-present god.
We’re sure that some people will be instantly dismayed about Amazon’s move to make its voice assistant accessible to children. But anyone who’s seen their children interact with an smart speaker will know that, for many, it’s an instant hit. With voice assistants looking set to be a key element of future technology, we’d argue Amazon might as well make its tech safer and less frustrating for the next generation to experiment with.
The Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition is available for pre-order today and will start shipping on May 9. We’re waiting on information on availability outside of the US, but judging on Amazon’s recent form we’d suggest there could be a couple of months delay.