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Hands on with the Echo Dots Kids Edition

Earlier this 12 months, Amazon offered an Echo Dot for youngsters, with its $80 Echo Dot Kids Edition instrument, which comes on your number of a crimson, blue, or inexperienced protecting case. The concept is to marketplace a model of Amazon’s current Dot to households via bundling it with an current subscription provider, and via throwing in a couple of further options – like having Alexa inspire youngsters to mention “please” when making their calls for, as an example.

The instrument is smart in a few eventualities – for helicopter oldsters who wish to absolutely lock down an Echo instrument earlier than hanging it in a child’s room, and for individuals who had been in the marketplace for a FreeTime Unlimited subscription anyway.

I’ve been checking out out an Echo Dot Kids Edition, and bumped into some demanding situations which I believed I’d percentage. This isn’t a evaluation – I’m certain you’ll to find the ones in different places. 

Music Filtering

As a father or mother of an Eight-year previous myself, I’ve learned it’s too tough to stay her from ever listening to unhealthy phrases – particularly in tune, TV and flicks – so I’ve simply defined to her that whilst she is going to every now and then listen the ones phrases, that doesn’t imply it’s ok to mention them. (We have a an identical rule about artwork – every now and then folks shall be nude in art work, however that doesn’t imply it’s ok to stroll round bare all the time.)

Surprisingly, I’ve been in a position to ascertain a degree of disgrace round grownup and irrelevant content material to the level that she is going to confess to me when she hears it on puts like YouTube. She will also flip it off with out my instruction! I’ve a just right child, I suppose.

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But I perceive some oldsters will handiest need youngsters to get admission to the sanitized model of songs – particularly if their kids are nonetheless in the preschool years, or tend to hunt out specific content material as a result of they’re little monsters.

Amazon FreeTime could be a just right possibility if that’s the case, however there are some caveats.

For starters, if you happen to plan on the use of the specific language clear out on songs the Echo Dot performs, you then’re caught with Amazon Music. While the Echo Dot itself can play tune from a lot of products and services, together with on-demand choices from Pandora and Spotify, you’ll’t use those products and services when the specific clear out is enabled as “music services that do not support this filter will be blocked,” Amazon explains.

We’re a Spotify family, in order that method my kid’s favourite bedtime tune playlist changed into unavailable after we swapped out her current Echo Dot for the Kids Edition which had the specific clear out enabled.

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Above: Parent Dashboard? Where? Maybe a hyperlink would lend a hand?

You can disable the specific clear out from the Parent Dashboard, however this selection is inconveniently to be had simply by means of the internet. When you dig round in the Alexa app – which is the place you’d suppose those controls could be discovered, there’s just a FreeTime On/Off toggle transfer and directions to “Go to the Parent Dashboard to see activity, manage time limits, and add content.”

It’s now not even hyperlinked!

You have to simply know the dashboard’s URL is oldsters.amazon.com. (And now not www.oldsters.amazon.com, via the method. That doesn’t paintings.)

Then to in fact disable the clear out, it’s a number of extra steps.

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You’ll click on the tools icon subsequent to the kid’s identify, click on on “Echo Dot Kids Edition” beneath “Alexa Settings,” then click on “Manage Music.” Here, you’ll flip the transfer on or off.

If you don’t have a subscription tune provider, the Echo Dot Kids Edition additionally ships with get admission to to ad-free kid-safe stations on iHeartRadio Family.

Whitelisting Alexa abilities…neatly, some abilities!

Another factor with the method FreeTime works with Alexa, is that it’s now not transparent that almost the entirety your kid accesses on the instrument needs to be whitelisted.

This results in a complicated first-time consumer workflow.

Likely, you’ll get started via surfing in the Alexa app’s Skills phase or the Skills Store on the internet to search out some suitable kid-friendly abilities in your kid to check out. For instance, I discovered and enabled a talent referred to as “Math Facts – Math Practice for Kids.”

But once I prompt “Alexa, open Math Facts,” she answered, “I can’t do that.”

She didn’t say why.

As I hadn’t used FreeTime in slightly some time, it didn’t happen to me that each and every Alexa talent would must be toggled on – similar to the third-party apps, movies, books and audiobooks the kid has get admission to to that didn’t send with FreeTime Unlimited itself.

Instead, I mistakenly assumed that abilities from the “Kids” phase of the Skills retailer would simply paintings.

Again, you’ll have to understand to visit oldsters.amazon.com to toggle issues on.

And once more, the procedure for doing so is simply too many clicks deep in the consumer interface to be straight away evident to learners. (You click on the tools via the child’s identify, then “Add Content” – now not “Echo Dot Kids Edition” as you could suppose! Then, on the “Add Content” display screen, click on over to the “Alexa Skills” tab and toggle on the abilities you need the kid to make use of.)

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The factor with the program is that it prevents Echo Dot Kids Edition customers – youngsters and adults alike – from finding and enabling abilities via voice. And it provides an needless step via forcing oldsters to toggle abilities on.

After all, if the oldsters are the ones signing in when visiting the Skills retailer in-app or on the internet, that implies they’re the ones opting for to permit the Skills, too.

And in the event that they’re enabling a talent from Kids phase, one would think it’s for his or her youngsters to make use of on their instrument!

The drawback, in large part, is that FreeTime isn’t truly built-in with the Alexa app. All of this – from specific content material filters to whitelisting abilities to turning on or off calling, messaging and drop-ins – will have to be controlled from inside of the Alexa app, now not from a separate website online.

Amazon clearly did minimum integration paintings with the intention to promote oldsters a pricier Echo Dot.

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To make issues extra complicated is the indisputable fact that Amazon has partnered with some youngsters talent publishers, very similar to the way it partnered with different content material suppliers for apps and flicks. That method there’s an inventory of abilities that don’t seem on your Parent Dashboard that still don’t require whitelisting.

This comprises: Disney Stories, Loud House Challenge, No Way That’s True, Funny Fill In, Spongebob Challenge, Weird however True, Name that Animal, This or That, Word global, Ben ten, Classroom 13, Batman Adventures, and Climb the Beanstalk.

But it’s complicated that you’ll straight away use those abilities, and now not others obviously intended for youngsters. You finally end up feeling such as you did one thing improper when some abilities don’t paintings, earlier than you determine this complete whitelisting device.

In addition, it’s now not transparent that those “Premium” abilities come with the FreeTime subscription – maximum aren’t to be had in the Skills retailer. If your FreeTime subscription expires, it kind of feels you’ll lose get admission to to those, as neatly.

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

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Your FreeTime Unlimited 1-year Subscription

It’s additionally irritating that there’s no knowledge on the FreeTime Parents dashboard about the nature of your subscription.

You can’t verify that you just’re lately subscribed to the paid product referred to as FreeTime Unlimited. You can’t see when that subscription expires, or when your first loose 12 months is up. It’s unclear if you happen to’ll simply be charged, or when that can happen. And there’s no toggle to show the subscription off if making a decision you now not want it.

Instead, you’ll handiest “modify” which bank card you utilize with Amazon’s 1-click. Seriously. That’s it.

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Above: wish to organize your subscription?

Below: hahaha, just right good fortune with that!

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I nonetheless don’t know the place to show this subscription off – I suppose the method to disable it doesn’t even seem till your loose 12 months is up? (Even clicking on “FreeTime Unlimited” from Amazon.com’s subscription control web page routes you again to this pointless Parent dashboard web page for managing your 1-Click settings.)

So, inquire from me in a 12 months, perhaps?

That mentioned, in case you are in the marketplace for each a FreeTime Unlimited subscription and an Echo Dot, you too can purchase the Kids Edition.

FreeTime Unlimited works on Fire capsules, Android gadgets, Kindle, and as of this month, iOS gadgets, offering get admission to to over 15,000 kid-safe apps, video games, movies, books and academic content material. On Amazon gadgets, oldsters too can set display screen points in time and academic objectives.

The provider on its own is $2.99 monthly for Prime contributors (for one profile) or $four.99 monthly for non-members. It’s extra if you are going to buy the Family subscription. Meanwhile, the common second gen Echo Dot is lately $49.99. So you’re mainly having a look at $50 + $36/12 months for FreeTime Unlimited if you happen to purchased these items one at a time as a Prime member.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with twelve months of FreeTime Unlimited and is $79.99. So you’re saving a tiny bit there. Plus, you’ll at all times flip FreeTime off on the instrument, if you happen to’d slightly simply use the youngsters Echo Dot as an ordinary Echo Dot – whilst nonetheless getting a loose 12 months of FreeTime for every other instrument, like the child’s iPad.

Still, be careful as a result of Echo Dot frequently is going on sale – and most certainly shall be on sale once more for Prime Day this summer time. Depending on the worth minimize it will get, it is probably not price it to shop for the package.

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Other Perks

There are different perks that Amazon tries to make use of to promote the Echo Dot Kids Edition to households, however the maximum notable is “Magic Word.”

This function turns on when FreeTime is enabled, and thank you youngsters for pronouncing “please” after they talk to Alexa. Yes, that turns out like a small factor but it surely used to be one thing that numerous oldsters had been dissatisfied about. They idea youngsters had been studying unhealthy manners via barking instructions at Alexa.

I don’t learn about that. My child turns out to remember the fact that we are saying “please” and “thank you” to folks, however Alexa doesn’t get her emotions harm via being informed to “play Taylor Swift.” But to each and every their very own!

This function will thrill some oldsters, I’m certain.

Parents too can use FreeTime to pause the instrument or configure a bedtime so youngsters don’t keep up chatting with Alexa, however truthfully, LET ‘EM.

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It’s a ways higher than after they stall bedtime via badgering you for that further glass of water, yet one more blanket, flip on that gentle, now crack the door…a bit extra…rather less…Honestly, escaping the child’s room at bedtime is an artwork shape.

If Alexa can stay them busy and no more frightened of the darkish, I’m calling it a win.

FreeTime with the Echo Dot Kids Edition additionally allows 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.

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This is hilarious to me.

Because if in case you have a child in the preschool to tween age vary who in fact calls for an alarm clock to get up in the morning as an alternative of having up at the crack of morning time (or perhaps person who has long gone via years of coaching so that they DON’T ALSO WAKE YOU UP AT THE CRACK OF DAWN OH MY GOD) – then, I suppose, um, experience persona alarms?

I’m sorry, let me forestall guffawing….Hold on.

I’m certain anyone wishes this.

Sorry for guffawing. But please give an explanation for the way you’ve taught your kids to sleep in? Do they pass to mattress at a tight hour too? No critically, electronic mail me. I do not know.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition too can paintings as a family intercom, however so do common Echo gadgets.

You can flip off voice buying on the Kids Edition, however you’ll do this on common gadgets, too (in spite of what Amazon’s comparability chart says.)

Plus, youngsters can now keep watch over good house gadgets with the Echo Dot Kids Edition – a function that shamefully wasn’t to be had at release, however is now.

And that lovable protecting case? Well, an ordinary Echo Dot is in fact lovely strong. We’ve dropped ours most certainly a dozen instances from cloth wardrobe to ground (uncarpeted!) with no problems.

I really like how Amazon tries to promote the case, despite the fact that:

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I suppose in case your child plans to do CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENTS via the Echo Dot, you could want this.

In truth, the case is solely lovely – and will lend a hand the Echo higher fit the child’s room.

The Echo Kids Edition, total, isn’t a must have instrument. You’ll have extra flexibility with an ordinary Echo and a bit old-school parenting.

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