Amazon FreeTime and Amazon FreeTime Unlimited — the company’s platform with tons of kid-friendly content — is now becoming Amazon Kids and Amazon Kids+.
This isn’t just a name change. The service will offer a new home screen experience, Amazon Echo integrations, and introduce an expanded catalog of music and video content. In total, the service gives young users unlimited access to thousands of kid-friendly content, ranging from books, videos, educational apps, and games.
Amazon Kids offers a tablet experience more akin to what they see on their parents’ tablets, though there are settings that let adults adjust these settings.
The Amazon Echo integration does mean that kids can broadcast voice messages to everyone in the house via Alexa. While that in itself could be annoying, parents should also be aware that it means Amazon/Alexa are listening to and processing the child’s voice. This feature does requires parent approval.
The subscription will continue to work across a range of platforms, including Fire tablets, Fire TV, Kindle, Echo, iOS, Chrome OS and Android devices.
Why Amazon Kids?
Amazon Kids hosts many titles from partners available on YouTube: Mattel, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids and Sesame Workshop. The catalog is expanding to include hundreds of additional video titles for kids ages 6 to 12, including gaming playthrough videos plus PG and live-action titles. They have also added stations from iHeatRadio.
That said, the service stands apart with its lack of unboxing videos, external social media links, comments, and ads. Why does that matter?
The trouble with many “kid-friendly” streaming platforms like YouTube Kids, or family-friendly filters, is the content is compiled by algorithms. For Amazon Kids, actual people are behind the decisions for what qualifies as kid-friendly content. “My team goes out and gets all the best stuff that there is. We look at ratings. We look at customer reviews. Everything in FreeTime is handpicked,” Amazon’s managing director for FreeTime, Kurt Beidler told Fast Company.
Parents have the option to set additional restrictions on the content their kids can see. They can also set rules, like requiring kids to read a specified amount before being able to access videos or games.
Kids users’ interests are tracked with the data used to create future recommendations and signal what kind of content should be added to the site. Beidler emphasized the data stays within FreeTime (now Amazon Kids) and isn’t used elsewhere, a practice that left YouTube in hot water recently when that platform’s parent company, Google, was fined by the FTC for misusing kids’ tracked data.
Amazon FreeTime is hardly Amazon’s only venture into kid-friendly tech. Last year’s Kindle Kids Edition comes equipped with a durable case and a two-year “worry-free guarantee.” The new Echo Dot Kids Edition is kid-friendly with parental controls, allowing youngsters to play music, hear stories and call a list of approved numbers.
The new home screen option and Alexa integration will be available within weeks. The full rollout will take place over the next couple months. The monthly plan starts at $2.99, but the best value is a yearly family subscription for $69 (available to Prime customers).