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Hands with the Echo Dots Kids Edition

Earlier this year Amazon introduced an Echo Dot for children, with its $ 80 Echo Dot Kids Edition, offered in a red, blue or green protective case. The idea is to market an existing version of the existing Dot Equipment from Amazon to families by associating it with an existing subscription service and adding some additional features – as if Alexa encouraged children to say "please" when formulating their requests, for example.

The device makes sense in some scenarios – for parents of helicopters who want to completely lock an Echo device before putting it in a child's room, and for those who were on the market for a FreeTime Unlimited subscription anyway. ]

I tested an Echo Dot Kids Edition and I encountered challenges that I thought I would share. This is not a hardware review – I'm sure you can find them elsewhere.

Filtering of music

As a parent of an 8 year old child, I realized that it was too difficult to prevent him from hearing bad words – especially in the music, television and movies – so I explained to her that while she sometimes hear those words, it does not mean that it's ok to say them. (We have a similar rule about the art – sometimes people will be naked in the paintings, but that does not mean that it's normal to walk around naked all the time.)

Surprisingly, I was able to establish a level of shame around adult content and inappropriate to the point that she will confess me when she will hear him in places like Youtube. She will even extinguish it without my instruction! I have a good kid, I guess.

But I understand that some parents only want kids to access the sanitized version of the songs – especially if their kids are still in the preschool years, or tend to look for explicit content because they're small monsters.

Amazon FreeTime would be a good option in this case, but there are some caveats.

For starters, if you plan to use the explicit language filter on songs played by Echo Dot, you're stuck with Amazon Music. While the Echo point itself can play music from various services, including Pandora and Spotify's on-demand offerings, you can not use these services when the explicit filter is on "musical services not supporting this filter will be blocked, " Amazon explains.

We are a Spotify focus, which means that my child's favorite music playlist became unavailable when we traded his Echo Dot for children whose explicit filter was turned on.

Above: Parent Dashboard? Or? Maybe a link would help?

You can disable the explicit filter from the parent dashboard, but this option is only inconveniently available via the web. When you dig into the Alexa application – where you think these controls would be found, there is only a FreeTime On / Off toggle switch and instructions for "Go to parent dashboard to see activity, manage time limits and add content."

This is not even a hypertext link!

You just need to know that the dashboard URL is (And not, by the way, it does not work.)

Then, to disable the filter, it takes several steps.

Click on the gear icon next to the name of the child, click on "Echo Dot Kids Edition" under "Alexa Settings", then click on "Manage Music". Here you can enable or disable the switch. ]

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If you do not have a subscription-based music service, the Echo Dot Kids Edition also comes with access to no-ad children's stations on iHeartRadio Family.

Naming skills Alexa … well, some skills!

Another problem with the way FreeTime works with Alexa, is that it's not clear that almost everything your child accesses the device needs to be added to the whitelist.

This results in a confusing first-time user workflow.

You will probably start by navigating through the skill section of the Alexa app or in the web-based skill store to find child-friendly skills that your child might try. For example, I found and activated a skill called "Math Facts – Math Practical for Kids."

But when I asked "Alexa, open Math Facts", she replied, "I can not do that."

She did not say why.

Since I had not used FreeTime for a long time, I did not think that every Alexa skill should be activated – just like third-party apps, videos, books, and audiobooks to which Child has access. this has not been delivered with FreeTime Unlimited itself.

Instead, I mistakenly assumed that the skills of the "Kids" section of the Skills store would simply work.

Once again, you will have to know how to go to to move on.

And again, the process to do it is too many clicks in the UI to be immediately obvious to newcomers. (You click on the gear by the name of the child, then "Add Content" – not "Echo Dot Kids Edition" as you think! Then, on the screen "Add Content" , click on the "Alexa Skills" tab and toggle the skills you want the child to use.)

The problem with this system is that it prevents users of Echo Dot Kids Edition – children and adults – from discovering and enabling vocal skills. And this adds a useless step in forcing parents to switch their skills.

After all, if parents are the ones who log in by visiting the store's built-in skills app or on the web, this means that they also choose to enable the skills.

And if they activate a Kids section skill, we will assume that it is up to their kids to use on their device!

The problem, in large part, is that FreeTime is not really integrated with the Alexa application. All this – from explicit content filters to whitelist skills to activation or deactivation of calls, messages and appointments – must be managed from the Alexa application, not from a separate website.

Amazon has obviously done minimal integration work to sell parents a more expensive Echo Dot.

To make things more confusing, it's the fact that Amazon's is associated with children's skill editors, in the same way that she's been associated with other content providers for apps and movies. This means that there is a list of skills that do not appear in your parent dashboard that do not require a white list .

This includes: Disney Stories, Strong House Challenge, No Way That's Right, Funny Filling, Spongebob Challenge, Weird But True, Name of this Animal, This or That, Word World, Ben Ten, Classroom Thirteen , Batman Adventures, and Climb on the magic bean.

But it is confusing that you can immediately use these skills, and not others for children. You end up feeling that you have done something wrong when some skills do not work, before you understand this whole system of whitelists.

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Also, it's not clear that these "Premium" skills come with the FreeTime subscription – most are not available in the Skill Store. If your FreeTime subscription expires, it seems that you no longer have access to it either.

Overall, the FreeTime experience for Echo is disjointed, and there is a steep learning curve for new users.

Your one-year unlimited subscription FreeTime

It's also frustrating that the FreeTime Parents dashboard contains no information about the nature of your subscription.

You can not confirm that you are currently subscribed to the paid product FreeTime Unlimited. You can not see when this subscription expires or when your first free year is over. It is not known if you will be charged, or when it will happen. And there is no switch to disable the subscription if you decide you do not need it anymore.

Instead, you can only "edit" the credit card you use with Amazon's 1-click. Seriously. That's all.

I still do not know where to disable this subscription – I guess the option to disable it does not even appear until your free year is over? (Even by clicking "FreeTime Unlimited" on the Subscription Management page, you return to this useless Parent Dashboard page to manage your settings in one click.)

So, ask me in a year, maybe?

That said, if you're on the market for both a FreeTime Unlimited subscription and an Echo Dot, you can buy the Kids Edition as well.

FreeTime Unlimited works on Fire tablets, Android devices, Kindle and, starting this month, iOS devices, giving access to more than 15,000 apps, games, videos, books and educational content. On Amazon devices, parents can also set time limits and learning goals.

The service itself is $ 2.99 per month for core members (for a profile) or $ 4.99 per month for non-members. It's more if you buy the family subscription. Meanwhile, the usual 2nd generation Echo Dot is currently $ 49.99. So, you are basically looking at $ 50 + $ 36 / year for FreeTime Unlimited if you bought these things separately as a primary member.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with one year of FreeTime Unlimited and costs $ 79.99. So, you save a little bit there. In addition, you can still disable FreeTime, if you prefer to use the Echo point as a normal echo point – while enjoying a free year of FreeTime for another device, such as the iPad 's # 39; child.

Stay on the lookout because Echo Dot is often on sale – and will likely be on sale again for Prime Day this summer. Depending on the price reduction, it may not be worth buying the bundle.

Other Benefits

There are other benefits that Amazon is trying to use to sell the Echo Dot Kids Edition to families, but the most notable is "Magic Word."

This feature is turned on when FreeTime is turned on and thanks the kids for saying "please" when they talk to Alexa. Yes, it seems like a small thing but it was something that many parents were upset about. They thought the children were learning bad manners by barking orders to Alexa.

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I do not know about it. My child seems to understand that we say "please" and "thank you" to people, but Alexa does not hurt her feelings by being told to "play Taylor Swift". But to each their own!

This feature will delight some parents, I'm sure.

Parents can also use FreeTime to pause the device or set up a bedtime so that the kids do not stay talking to Alexa, but honestly, LET's EM.

It's much better than when they stop to go to bed to prepare an extra glass of water, a blanket over, light that light, now break the door … a little more … a little less … Honestly, escape from the children's room bedtime is a form of art.

If Alexa can keep them busy and be less afraid of the dark, I call it a victory.

FreeTime with Echo Dot Kids Edition also allows you to set up "Character Alarms" – which means that kids can set up Alexa to wake them up with an alarm click featuring character characters like Disney and Nickelodeon.

This is hilarious .

Because if you have a middle-aged preschooler who actually needs an alarm clock to wake up in the morning instead of getting up at the same time. dawn (or maybe one who has gone through years of training so that they do not wake you up at the crack of DAWN OH MY GOD) – so, I guess, uh, enjoy the character alarms ?

I'm sorry, let me stop laughing … .old on.

I'm sure someone needs this.

Sorry to laugh. But explain to us how you taught your children to sleep? Do they go to bed at a decent time too? No seriously, write to me. I have no idea.

The Echo Dot Kids Edition can also work as a home intercom, just like the usual Echo devices.

You can disable the purchase of voice on Kids Edition, but you can also do it on conventional devices (despite the comparison chart of Amazon.)

Plus, kids can now control smart home devices with the Echo Dot Kids Edition – a feature that, shamefully, was not available at launch, but that is now.

And this pretty protective case? Well, a regular echo point is actually pretty sturdy. We filed ours probably a dozen times from a dresser on the floor (unsurveyed!) Without problems.

I love how Amazon is trying to sell the case, however:

I guess if your child plans to do CHEMICAL EXPERIENCE with Echo Dot, you may need it.

In reality, the case is simply cute – and can help the Echo to better match the children's room.

The Echo Kids Edition, as a whole, is not an indispensable device. You will have more flexibility with a regular Echo and a bit of parenting to the old.