Amazon Renames FreeTime to Amazon Kids, Adds Alexa Announcements
Amazon revamped its child-focused services on Monday, adding new features, and renaming them from FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited to Amazon Kids and Kids+ respectively. The services have new interfaces and will integrate with Echo smart speakers to allow kids to make announcements with the Alexa voice assistant.
FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited first came out back in 2012, but Amazon has expanded its services and capabilities dramatically in the last few years. The Kids and Kids+ options are available on Echo smart speakers, Fire tablets, and other devices. The profiles that children make for themselves on those devices include exclusive Alexa Skills and other content. The new iteration updates that look to make it appeal to kids more while looking more like the standard profile for adults and continuing to allow parents to set controls on what the children can access on their own. The Kids feature is free. Kids+ costs $3 a month for Prime members and $5 a month for non-prime members for a single kid’s profile, or $7, and $10 for four children’s profiles. There are discounts for longer-term subscriptions as well. The Kids+ tier is mainly about access to more content, as it includes provides more than 20,000 books, audiobooks, games, and movies.
“Since the launch of Amazon FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited, over 20 million parents have trusted Amazon to give them the parental controls they need to provide a safe place for their children to enjoy the premium books, games, shows, and movies that kids love,” Amazon said in announcing the new features and changed names. “The new names reflect our continued commitment to invest in and expand kids’ experiences, including bringing fun, educational content to kids and providing parental controls that give families peace of mind.”
One of the more notable upgrades gives children using Amazon Kids on a Fire tablet to make an announcement to Alexa devices in the home. The ability to make announcements through other Alexa devices like Echo speakers requires parental permission for Alexa to listen to what the child is saying. That legal necessity is one Amazon is likely to highlight as voice assistant developers are still in the midst of addressing privacy and security concerns, especially when it comes to kids, because of the pushback they are dealing with. Amazon is already facing lawsuits over whether Alexa violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and that was even before the furor over whether contractors hired by Amazon are hearing conversations, including with children, that Alexa accidentally recorded. Amazon really wants to make Alexa a family-friendly voice assistant that parents feel comfortable having their child use. Alexa-enabled toys like the KidKraft Kitchen and children’s activities like Amazon Prime Camp and the skills in the Echo Dot Kids Edition are built around that premise. Not to mention, it adds a lot of opportunity for premium content that would otherwise be inaccessible for voice app developers.