Amazon launches the Echo Dot Kids Edition to teach your children some manners
Are you worried that your Echo may be a bad influence on your child? Well, if you live in the United States, Amazon has an answer for you – or at least a way of helping you throw more money at the problem.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition looks like an Echo Dot wearing a colourful coat for extra padding and launches on 9 May, costing $79.99 – $30 more than a regular Echo Dot. There’s no word on a UK release date, but if past form is anything to go by, we’d expect to hear something in the next three months or so.
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But aside from being more brightly coloured, what does the Echo Dot Kids Edition actually do differently? The technical answer to that is “nothing,” but there’s a big caveat: it comes with a free year’s subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, which brings in a whole bunch of extra kid-friendly features designed to give parents a bit more peace of mind, and generally make it more accessible for younger voices.
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To that end, not only will the Echo Dot Kids Edition filter out explicit song lyrics, it’ll also add educational and child-friendly content – including over 300 kid-friendly Audible audiobooks, and premium content from Disney, Nickelodeon and others. If you ask it the kind of question that curious young minds often pop out, it’ll provide longer answers, but use simpler language. It’s also trained to listen to less clear elocution: if your son or daughter can’t pronounce his or her “L’s”, for example, it’ll still spring to life on hearing the word “Owexa”.
Most brilliantly of all, this version of Alexa will also encourage your children to remember to be polite. So if you say please, it will offer an answer and then add “By the way, thanks for asking so nicely”.
Somewhat cynically, the really clever part of this (read: catch) is that once the free subscription to FreeTime expires, the Echo Dot Kids Edition turns into a regular Echo Dot, albeit a brightly coloured version. If you want to keep Alexa kid-friendly, you’ll need to pay at least $3 per month (that’s for Prime members, naturally). That means you’re left with a choice after a year: either pay up, or your child’s new friend will no longer feel the need to keep its chat kid-friendly. Of course, this also means you have to have a Prime membership in the first place, to then get the FreeTime subscription rate, and that will now cost you $199, up from $99, following the Amazon Prime price rise.
FreeTime – in the US at least – will be available for any other Echos you may have, but bear in mind enabling it will kill a bunch of features that grown-ups take for granted, including connected apps, third-party music services and voice shopping.
If you’re in the US, you can preorder the Echo Dot Kids Edition here