We already have a 2nd generation Echo Dot and really like it. We were very excited when we found out about the Kids Edition so there would be parental controls to protect our children. The Kids Edition was received on the 9th. Upon opening the box you’ll find that the Kids Edition is also a 2nd generation Dot in a child safe case. There is no difference in the Dot itself. By adding Freetime to the Kids Edition (or any Dot) you get to control what is accessed.
Despite some pretty negative reviews, we’re here to give Echo Dot Kids Edition a fair go.
We have to say that we can’t really understand why this neat little kid-themed twist on the compact but powerful Echo Dot gets such a bad rep.
Sure, it costs a little more than the regular model but when you consider the year’s subscription to FreeTime Unlimited thrown in, you’re getting great overall value.
We’ll showcase the principal upsides and drawbacks of this colorful Echo Dot Kids Edition then we’ll drill down on what it does well in more depth
What We Like
- Free 1-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited is worth the price of purchase alone
- Intuitive Parent Dashboard allows you to remain in full control of what your kids do on Echo Dot
- Robust kid-proof case in 3 vibrant colorways so the device is a fun way to introduce your children to digital assistants
- Alex-enabled so you can get your youngsters started with smart home technology
- Use Drop-In feature to use Echo Dot like an intercom so you can communicate with your kids even if you’re on different floors
- Make getting up fun with SpongeBob-themed alarm clock
- Filter out X-rated lyrics so you can control what your kids are listening to
- Your children should have no problem with Alexa understanding even if they’re not too clear with their words yet
- Lock your kids out when it’s time for bed so you remove temptation from their way
- 2-year worry-free warranty means you’ve got complete peace of mind
What We Don’t Like
- More expensive than regular Echo Dot but mitigated by FreeTime Unlimited subscription
- Unearthing content can be a laborious process
- Some people are concerned about security issues – we’ll address that below
Since it’s a model expressly for children, we’ll kick off with a look at how you can make full use of the comprehensive parental controls.
The first thing to point out is that you can take advantage of these controls on regular Echo devices. The thing is, you’ll need a FreeTime Unlimited subscription which, as we’ll outline below, comes free of charge for the first year with Echo Dot Kids Edition.
You can set up 2 accounts on the dashboard so that both of you can remain in control of what your kids are up to independently. You can set up single accounts or plans for up to 4 children. You can set up all time limits and filters so that each day gets to use what’s right for them.
While technology is an integral part of life for children now, something they’ve always had in their lives, the time kids spend on devices left unchecked can easily spiral out of hand. One of the key benefits of these parental controls is the way you can bar access to Echo Dot when your kids should be in bed not badgering Alexa.
As well as limiting access after a certain time, you can also set cumulative screen time limits so you’re confident your children won’t be spending too much time online. Since FreeTime Unlimited rolls out across all Amazon devices, you can keep hold of the reins even when your kids leave Echo Dot and dive down into some general browsing on a Fire tablet.
You use the dashboard to make any tweaks you want to web browsers so you can clean up and streamline the way your kids behave online.
Age filters are a great catch-all method of eliminating the vast bulk of unsuitable content in one hit.
If you want to check back on the interactions your children have with Alexa, transcripts are available on both the Amazon and Alexa dashboards.
So, confident you’ll remain firmly in the driving seat even when you’re not in the same room as your children, what makes Echo Dot Kids Edition worth the premium over the original device?
FreeTime Unlimited: Free Subscription
FreeTime Unlimited is a robust service from Amazon that can easily run you over a hundred bucks a year.
With Echo Dot Kids Edition you’ll enjoy a full subscription for 1 year absolutely free of charge. For many people, this alone is motivation enough to pick up the kid-friendly version even though it costs a little more.
If you’re not sold and want to explore your options, consider this…
With Amazon’s Fire HD Kids Edition, you’ll also get this same subscription and the same 2-year worry-free warranty. You’ll also get a full-blooded tablet with a protective case. Get yourself a standard Echo Dot and you can take full advantage of FreeTime Unlimited without worrying about your kids cracking the tablet.
In many ways, offering this subscription is a clever ploy on Amazon’s part. It’s a great way to snare new customers into the ever-deepening Amazon ecosystem since there’s much more on offer by the way of video, e-books and games which cry out for one of the Fire tablets.
Whichever way you look at it, though, getting a year’s access to this treasure trove means every cent is well spent and your kid will be almost overwhelmed with the amount of content available. The 13,000 kid-friendly books gives you the equivalent of a well-stocked public library on hand and completely free. Radio stations and audio books should make bedtimes stress-free and you can make sure all streamed music comes in age-appropriate form.
You should also note that there’s no FreeTime Unlimited app available on iOS although the web-based method control is responsive and intuitive.
Alexa and Will She Understand Your Child?
With your FreeTime Unlimited subscription under your belt, what else does Echo Dot do?
Echo Dot Kids Edition is a user-friendly an effective way for your children to get accustomed to dealing with the omnipresent Alexa if they’re not already familiar with everyone’s favorite digital butler.
If you’re concerned about your child communicating by voice with devices, the parental controls should easy most of those concerns. You won’t get any accidental purchases and you can make sure surreptitious requests for explicit music are vetoed.
If you’re already on familiar terms with Alexa, you’ll notice a small difference in warmth with the dedicated child-friendly guardian with random commentary interweaved to engage your children.
Asking for stories or jokes will always yield you something suitable for the age of the child in question rather than the crapshoot you’d get making the same request to Alexa in her regular guise.
We’ve covered plenty of devices with Alexa so we’re not going to labor the point on the tens of thousands of ways in which she can help you. And if you’re not convinced it’s a smart move to unleash voice activated devices on your kids, we’re certainly not here to nudge you in a direction you’re uncomfortable with.
If you are an Alexa convert, though, you’ll love the child-appropriate hat she wears for Echo Dot Kids Edition.
Intercom and Alarm
If you’ve used Alexa before, you’ll be aware of Drop-In functionality…
This allows you to enjoy intercom-like access with your nearest and dearest. You can activate or disable this feature and check up on what your kids are doing without needing to hustle upstairs.
If you struggle getting your children up in the mornings, you could set recurring weekday alarms. Echo Dot Kids Edition comes with Pixar and SpongeBob voices along with a few surprises to keep your kids excited about a new day rather than huddling under the blanket.
How About Privacy?
Privacy is an undeniable concern for many people these days and that’s no bad thing. It always pays to be on your guard since with advances in technology come new ways to come to harm.
While Amazon collect some data, this is pretty much inevitable these days.
If you’re worried about security, there’s no escaping the fact that Echo Dot Kids Edition is an IoT device that’s hooked up to the cloud so you can’t avoid the threat of hacking or some kind of security breach.
Bottom line, you’ll have your own thoughts about just how sensitive that data really is and whether this an angle worth considering or a strong reason not to buy.
2-Year Worry-Free Guarantee
Last but absolutely not least, the 2-year warranty is a significant improvement on the woeful 9 days offered with the regular device.
That’s not to say there’s much chance of your children damaging this rubberized ring but it’s nice to have that additional peace of mind at no extra charge.
If you fancy introducing your children to the world of voice assistants without needing to watch their every move, Echo Dot Kids Edition is well worth considering. They’ll be up and running in no time and you can see over the course of that first year whether FreeTime Unlimited is a service you’ll be prepared to continue paying for.
It’s that subscription that really makes this device another standout winner from Amazon.
Echo Dot Kids Edition is absolutely not a device for everyone but we think it makes a cost-effective option with a wealth of child-friendly content and it’s certainly a worthy addition to Amazon’s swelling collection of Echo devices.
Come back next week as we delve into Echo Look!