05 May 2017

DIGITAL - Amazon Moving Further into Kids' Digital Market

Amazon has taken two significant steps in the kids’ digital media market in the last two months.

First, in April, they introduced a suite of tools for both parental monitoring and engagement on their well-reviewed kid-friendly FreeTime subscription service.

The new parent dashboard allows parents to see what their kids are watching, reading, and playing, and also track how much time they’re spending in each digital environment.

This kind of software-based tracking is somewhat controversial, and largely ineffective as children mature into teenagers (talking works better with teens).

But in the rapidly changing digital world and with kids as young as three and four engaging with games and shows on mobile devices, it’s viewed as a necessary part of responsible parenting.

The second major element in Amazon’s new parental toolkit is the Discussion Cards.

The Discussion Cards are designed to facilitate productive and meaningful conversations between parents and kids about what the kids are engaging with in the FreeTime service.

The cards are written by Amazon’s own contenteEditors, and there are already thousands of cards available relating to the existing content within the service, and also some of the additional content that is frequently added to FreeTime.

The added element of suggested discussion topics is an innovation in the market, and is part of Amazon’s consistently parent-friendly approach to kids’ products.

Other examples of their engagement with this market include their insured kid tablets, and the comprehensiveness of their existing parental controls.

FreeTime, for example, allows parents to limit screen time and set ‘pause time,’ to ensure kids aren’t using the service when they need to be sleeping.

One area that parents will be watching is the inclusivity of the content.

Content curation has come under fire when parent’s interests conflict with children’s rights, particularly when it comes to accessing information about gender and orientation.

For trans or queer kids, access to information and representation can be a lifesaver, even at young ages, and strict parental controls can block access to vital resources and knowledge.

Amazon’s Discussion Cards have the potential to be a significant benefit to queer and trans kids if the content editors include inclusive and compassionate conversation prompts, and links to resources for parents.

The newly expanded parental tools aren’t the only major move that Amazon’s made recently.

This week they’ve unveiled the FreeTime app on Android devices.

This is a major development, and will allow Amazon to reach a much broader consumer base.

Prior to this release, FreeTime was only available on Amazon’s Fire Tablets, Kindles, and Fire TV.

The new Android app is free, but purchasing FreeTime Unlimited adds a significant amount of content in the form of books, videos, and games.

The kids’ digital media market is huge, and continuing to grow.

With these two new developments coming one after another, Amazon is positioning itself to be the go-to place for parent-friendly kids’ content.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.

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