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Hands on with the Echo Dots Kids Edition

Earlier this 12 months, Amazon introduced an Echo Dot for teenagers, with its $80 Echo Dot Kids Edition system, which is available in your selection of a purple, blue, or inexperienced protecting case. The concept is to market a model of Amazon’s present Dot to households by bundling it with an present subscription service, and by throwing in a couple of further options – like having Alexa encourage youngsters to say “please” when making their calls for, for instance.

The system is smart in a few eventualities – for helicopter mother and father who need to absolutely lock down an Echo system earlier than placing it in a child’s room, and for many who had been out there for a FreeTime Unlimited subscription anyway.

I’ve been testing out an Echo Dot Children Version, and bumped into some challenges which I assumed I’d share. This isn’t a evaluation – I’m positive you will discover these elsewhere. 

Music Filtering

As a guardian of an Eight-year previous myself, I’ve realized it’s too troublesome to maintain her from ever listening to dangerous phrases – particularly in music, TV and flicks – so I’ve simply defined to her that whereas she is going to generally hear these phrases, that doesn’t imply it’s okay to say them. (We’ve got the same rule about artwork – generally folks will likely be nude in work, however that doesn’t imply it’s okay to stroll round bare on a regular basis.)

Surprisingly, I’ve been in a position to set up a stage of disgrace round grownup and inappropriate content material to the purpose that she is going to confess to me when she hears it on locations like YouTube. She’s going to even flip it off with out my instruction! I’ve child, I assume.

However I perceive some mother and father will solely need youngsters to entry the sanitized model of songs – particularly if their youngsters are nonetheless within the preschool years, or generally tend to hunt out express content material as a result of they’re little monsters.

Amazon FreeTime could be possibility in that case, however there are some caveats.

For starters, when you plan on utilizing the specific language filter on songs the Echo Dot performs, you then’re caught with Amazon Music. Whereas the Echo Dot itself can play music from a wide range of providers, together with on-demand choices from Pandora and Spotify, you’ll be able to’t use these providers when the specific filter is enabled as “music providers that don’t help this filter will likely be blocked,” Amazon explains.

We’re a Spotify family, so meaning my youngster’s favourite bedtime music playlist grew to become unavailable once we swapped out her present Echo Dot for the Children Version which had the specific filter enabled.

Above: Dad or mum Dashboard? The place? Perhaps a hyperlink would assist?

You possibly can disable the specific filter from the Dad or mum Dashboard, however this feature is inconveniently obtainable simply by way of the online. If you dig round within the Alexa app – which is the place you’d suppose these controls could be discovered, there’s solely a FreeTime On/Off toggle change and directions to “Go to the Dad or mum Dashboard to see exercise, handle deadlines, and add content material.”

It’s not even hyperlinked!

You must simply know the dashboard’s URL is parents.amazon.com. (And never www.mother and father.amazon.com, by the way in which. That doesn’t work.)

Then to truly disable the filter, it’s a number of extra steps.

You’ll click on the gear icon subsequent to the kid’s identify, click on on “Echo Dot Children Version” underneath “Alexa Settings,” then click on “Handle Music.” Right here, you’ll be able to flip the change on or off.

When you don’t have a subscription music service, the Echo Dot Children Version additionally ships with entry to ad-free kid-safe stations on iHeartRadio Household.

Whitelisting Alexa expertise…nicely, some expertise!

One other challenge with the way in which FreeTime works with Alexa, is that it’s not clear that just about every little thing your youngster accesses on the system needs to be whitelisted.

This results in a complicated first-time person workflow.

Seemingly, you’ll begin by looking within the Alexa app’s Abilities part or the Skills Store on the web to seek out some applicable kid-friendly expertise to your youngster to attempt. For instance, I discovered and enabled a ability known as “Math Information – Math Apply for Children.”

However once I instructed “Alexa, open Math Information,” she responded, “I can’t do this.”

She didn’t say why.

As I hadn’t used FreeTime in fairly some time, it didn’t happen to me that every Alexa ability must be toggled on – similar to the third-party apps, movies, books and audiobooks the kid has entry to that didn’t ship with FreeTime Limitless itself.

As a substitute, I mistakenly assumed that expertise from the “Children” part of the Abilities retailer would simply work.

Once more, you’ll need to know to go to oldsters.amazon.com to toggle issues on.

And once more, the method for doing so is simply too many clicks deep within the person interface to be instantly apparent to newcomers. (You click on the gear by the child’s identify, then “Add Content material” – not “Echo Dot Children Version” as you would possibly suppose! Then, on the “Add Content material” display, click on over to the “Alexa Abilities” tab and toggle on the abilities you need the kid to make use of.)

The problem with this technique is that it prevents Echo Dot Children Version customers – youngsters and adults alike – from discovering and enabling expertise by voice. And it provides an pointless step by forcing mother and father to toggle expertise on.

In any case, if the mother and father are those signing in when visiting the Abilities retailer in-app or on the net, meaning they’re those selecting to allow the Abilities, too.

And in the event that they’re enabling a ability from Children part, one would assume it’s for his or her youngsters to make use of on their system!

The issue, largely, is that FreeTime isn’t actually built-in with the Alexa app. All of this – from express content material filters to whitelisting expertise to turning on or off calling, messaging and drop-ins – ought to be managed from throughout the Alexa app, not from a separate web site.

Amazon clearly did minimal integration work with a view to promote mother and father a pricier Echo Dot.

To make issues extra complicated is the truth that Amazon has partnered with some youngsters ability publishers, much like the way it partnered with different content material suppliers for apps and flicks. Meaning there’s a listing of expertise that don’t seem in your Dad or mum Dashboard that additionally don’t require whitelisting.

This contains: Disney Tales, Loud Home Problem, No Approach That’s True, Humorous Fill In, Spongebob Problem, Bizarre however True, Title that Animal, This or That, Phrase world, Ben ten, Classroom 13, Batman Adventures, and Climb the Beanstalk.

But it surely’s complicated you could instantly use these expertise, and never others clearly meant for teenagers. You find yourself feeling such as you did one thing unsuitable when some expertise don’t work, earlier than you determine this entire whitelisting system.

As well as, it’s not clear that these “Premium” expertise include the FreeTime subscription – most usually are not obtainable within the Abilities retailer. In case your FreeTime subscription expires, it appears you’ll lose entry to those, as nicely.

General, the FreeTime expertise for Echo feels disjointed, and there’s a steep studying curve for brand spanking new customers.

Your FreeTime Limitless 1-year Subscription

It’s additionally irritating that there’s no data on the FreeTime Dad and mom dashboard concerning the nature of your subscription.

You possibly can’t verify that you simply’re at present subscribed to the paid product referred to as FreeTime Limitless. You possibly can’t see when that subscription expires, or when your first free 12 months is up. It’s unclear when you’ll simply be charged, or when that may happen. And there’s no toggle to show the subscription off when you resolve you not want it.

As a substitute, you’ll be able to solely “modify” which bank card you utilize with Amazon’s 1-click. Significantly. That’s it.

Above: need to handle your subscription?

Under: hahaha, good luck with that!

I nonetheless don’t know the place to show this subscription off – I assume the choice to disable it doesn’t even seem till your free 12 months is up? (Even clicking on “FreeTime Limitless” from Amazon.com’s subscription administration web page routes you again to this ineffective Dad or mum dashboard web page for managing your 1-Click on settings.)

So, ask me in a 12 months, possibly?

That mentioned, if you’re out there for each a FreeTime Unlimited subscription and an Echo Dot, chances are you’ll as nicely purchase the Children Version.

FreeTime Limitless works on Hearth tablets, Android units, Kindle, and as of this month, iOS devices, offering entry to over 15,000 kid-safe apps, video games, movies, books and academic content material. On Amazon units, mother and father also can set display deadlines and academic objectives.

The service by itself is $2.99 per thirty days for Prime members (for one profile) or $four.99 per thirty days for non-members. It’s extra when you purchase the Household subscription. In the meantime, the regular 2nd gen Echo Dot is at present $49.99. So that you’re principally taking a look at $50 + $36/12 months for FreeTime Limitless when you purchased this stuff individually as a Prime member.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with one 12 months of FreeTime Limitless and is $79.99. So that you’re saving a tiny bit there. Plus, you’ll be able to all the time flip FreeTime off on the system, when you’d fairly simply use the children Echo Dot as a daily Echo Dot – whereas nonetheless getting a free 12 months of FreeTime for an additional system, like the child’s iPad.

Nonetheless, be careful as a result of Echo Dot typically goes on sale – and doubtless will likely be on sale once more for Prime Day this summer season. Relying on the value minimize it will get, it will not be price it to purchase the bundle.

Different Perks

There are different perks that Amazon tries to make use of to promote the Echo Dot Children Version to households, however probably the most notable is “Magic Phrase.”

This function activates when FreeTime is enabled, and thanks youngsters for saying “please” once they communicate to Alexa. Sure, that looks as if a small factor but it surely was something that a lot of parents were upset about. They thought youngsters were learning bad manners by barking instructions at Alexa.

I don’t learn about that. My child appears to know that we are saying “please” and “thanks” to folks, however Alexa doesn’t get her emotions damage by being informed to “play Taylor Swift.” However to every their very own!

This function will thrill some mother and father, I’m positive.

Dad and mom also can use FreeTime to pause the system or configure a bedtime so youngsters don’t keep up speaking to Alexa, however truthfully, LET ‘EM.

It’s much better than once they stall bedtime by badgering you for that further glass of water, yet one more blanket, activate that gentle, now crack the door…slightly extra…rather less…Truthfully, escaping the child’s room at bedtime is an artwork kind.

If Alexa can hold them busy and fewer afraid of the darkish, I’m calling it a win.

FreeTime with the Echo Dot Children Version additionally permits you to arrange “Character Alarms” – that means, youngsters can configure Alexa to wake them up with an alarm click on that includes characters from manufacturers like Disney and Nickelodeon.

That is hilarious to me.

As a result of you probably have a child within the preschool to tween age vary who truly requires an alarm clock to get up within the morning as a substitute of getting up on the first light (or possibly one who has gone via years of coaching so that they DON’T ALSO WAKE YOU UP AT THE CRACK OF DAWN OH MY GOD) – then, I assume, um, get pleasure from character alarms?

I’m sorry, let me cease laughing….Maintain on.

I’m positive any individual wants this.

Sorry for laughing. However please clarify the way you’ve taught your youngsters to sleep in? Do they go to mattress at an honest hour too? No severely, e mail me. I don’t know.

The Echo Dot Children Version also can work as a family intercom, however so do regular Echo devices.

You possibly can flip off voice buying on the Children Version, however you can do that on regular devices, too (regardless of what Amazon’s comparability chart says.)

Plus, youngsters can now management sensible dwelling units with the Echo Dot Children Version – a function that shamefully wasn’t obtainable at launch, however is now.

And that cute protecting case? Nicely, a daily Echo Dot is definitely fairly sturdy. We’ve dropped ours most likely a dozen occasions from dresser to flooring (uncarpeted!) with no points.

I like how Amazon tries to promote the case, although:

I assume in case your child plans to do CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENTS by the Echo Dot, chances are you’ll want this.

In actuality, the case is simply cute – and may help the Echo higher match the child’s room.

The Echo Children Version, general, will not be essential system. You’ll have extra flexibility with a daily Echo and slightly old-school parenting.

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About Alejandro Bonaparte

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