Alexa Skills for Kids Now Include Premium Content for Purchase, Approval Still Required
Last month Amazon began allowing developers to build skills geared toward children that include premium content for purchase. Kids won’t have the authority to approve the in-app purchase, instead the account holder will receive an approval request via email or text in which they have 24 hours to respond. If parents or account holders would prefer their children not have access to purchasing content they can disable the feature under settings.
Amazon FreeTime has been available since 2012 and provides a “safe place” for kids ages 3-12 to interact with technology through educational games and apps and it also lets parents limit screen time. Last year Amazon expanded FreeTime to include Alexa. While the new premium skill content isn’t available for standard FreeTime, it is included with a FreeTime Unlimited subscription.
The in-app purchase announcement comes days after Amazon revealed a new version of the Echo Dot Kids, and weeks before the release of Echo Show 5.
KEEPING CHILDREN ENTERTAINED WHILE MAINTAINING PRIVACY
Smart speaker manufacturers weren’t permitted to create programs specifically designed for children until the FTC updated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 2017. There are multiple lawsuits underway accusing Amazon of violating children’s privacy rights by recording users via voice assistant without consent. A company spokesperson issued a statement to address the lawsuits and privacy concerns: “Amazon has a longstanding commitment to preserving the trust of our customers and their families, and we have strict measures and protocols in place to protect their security and privacy.”
A Kickstarter campaign launched in April to help fund Chatterbox, a program that teaches kids how to create their own voice-activated skills while prioritizing privacy. Chatterbox has a section on their website dedicated to clarifying their safety measures. The company is COPPA compliant and ensures customers on their website that there is no data collection, no ads, and that the device is only listening when a wake button is pushed. The friendly voice assistant will ship to consumers at the end of this year. Kevin Elgan, Chatterbox’s CEO Kevin Elgan told VentureBeat, “We’ve honed in on privacy, safety, and accessibility because our mission is to provide the healthiest and safest alternative computing platform for children.”