FreeTime, an Amazon feature that both lets parents control the amount of time their kids spend on Fire devices and offers kids access to a slate of curated and age-appropriate content, continues to get updates. Just over a year ago, it was an expansion of FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited services beyond English books, movies, apps, and TV shows to Spanish-language media. Now Amazon is bringing FreeTime to new form factors and devices, too, to give parents more control over their kids’ media consumption across a wider range of products.
Amazon this morning announced the launch of FreeTime on Fire TV devices, including the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K (and soon Fire TV Edition television sets). And it took the wraps off of the Kindle Kids Edition, a customized Kindle with child-friendly features like word definitions and improved discovery.
Kindle Kids Edition
The Kindle Kids Edition isn’t a new device, per se. Rather, it’s the existing 6-inch, 167 pixels per inch Kindle (with an adjustable backlight and weeks-long battery life) preloaded with kid-friendly lock screen wallpapers and a library of over 2,000 books. That said, and as alluded to earlier, a number of features differentiate it from the bone-stock lineup.
One is what director of Kids and Family at Amazon Kurt Beidler refers to as “fuzzy search,” which recognizes misspelled or phonetically spelled titles to identify potential matches. For example, a search for “Hary Potter” (as opposed to “Harry Potter”) bubbles up a carousel of J.K. Rowling novels nearly instantly. Dovetailing with it are child-tailored content recommendations, which appear on the Kindle’s homepage across categories including genres, authors, and characters.
Also included with the Kindle Kids Edition are achievement badges, which grants kids digital stickers for practicing good reading habits. One of the most difficult to attain — Elite Bookworm — requires they read a book every day for 30 days straight.
The Kindle reading experience has a fresh coat of paint in Word Wise, a feature that pops up inline definitions above unusual or difficult words. It specifically highlights those beyond the reading level defined in a child’s profile (the higher the reading level, the fewer the words defined), which it presents on each page until Word Wise is manually switched off.
Word Wise complements the Kindle Kids Edition’s built-in dictionary, accessible with a long press of any word. Looked-up words are automatically converted into flashcards and added to a list, from which kids can remove them once they’re confident they’ve mastered them.
“It’s great for learners of English as a second language, and certainly wonderful for kids who are getting into chapter books for the first time and still growing their vocabulary,” said Beidler. “[It] can be pretty intimidating when kids bump up against words that they don’t understand … and they either just gloss over them, or maybe they lose interest and actually don’t finish the book.”
As with the other Kids Edition devices in Amazon’s portfolio, the Kindle Kids Edition comes with a child-friendly bumper case and a two-year replacement guarantee that covers accidental damage. It’s available for preorder starting today for $109.99, and it starts shipping October 30. (For a limited time, Amazon’s offering two Kindle Kids Editions for 25% off of the total purchase price.)
FreeTime on Fire TV
FreeTime on Fire TV provides a dedicated portal through which kids can browse vetted shows and movies from Prime Video, in addition to any apps and owned or rented titles that parents decide to whitelist. The idea is to provide a low-maintenance way to ensure kids don’t consume content that might not be appropriate for them, said Beidler.
“We build kids’ products from the ground up with three ideas in mind: First, kids want a device experience designed just for them; second, parents don’t want to worry about the content their kids are viewing; and third, parents want tools they can trust to help manage their kids’ device usage,” said Beidler. “[In FreeTime on Fire TV, kids are] locked into a walled garden experience.”
On supported devices — the second-gen Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K, and the first- and second-gen Fire TV to start — parents can create profiles for each child with associated avatars and names. Then, they can control when said child can watch content (which hours during the day and which days of the week) and the age threshold that dictates the content’s visibility.
As for kids, they’re able to browse, search, find videos by series or character, and queue up shows and movies as they please — so long as those shows and movies don’t lie beyond the FreeTime’s confines. Kids get a Prime Video selection tailored to their age, optionally supplemented by content from FreeTime Unlimited (which provides access to thousands of kid-friendly titles for $4.99 per month or $2.99 per month for Prime members) on Kindle, Echo, iOS, or Android devices.