The ascendancy of the tablet continues this holiday season with record numbers of Kindle products being sold. Parents increasingly turn to tablets as the computer of first choice for their children. For parents of older children who want a tablet which a kid could use for school, instead of a laptop, either the Surface or the iPad makes the most sense. However, for parents of younger children looking mostly for an education and entertainment suite instead of productivity, the economical Kindle Fire has become a favorite. For parents desiring a balanced approach to screen time and content, giving a child a tablet can create a management headache. Kids can easily figure out how to purchase new content, and unsuspecting parents can find their child spending the whole evening playing games instead of doing homework or other real world creative activities. Parents often find themselves engaging in a tug-of-war with their children over tablet time. The addition of the Amazon app Freetime on all new Kindles along with the Freetime Unlimited subscription service go a long way toward ending this tug-of-war and could make the Kindle Fire the go to choice for parents of kids between the ages of 3 and 8.
Freetime is an Amazon app which started shipping with all new Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD purchases in October. It allows parents to create individualized password-locked profiles for each of their children. Parents choose the books, apps and games which they want each child to access on the Kindle. This of course takes some upfront work and will occasionally require a parent to spend some quality time with a kid’s device in order to refresh their choices, but when a child’s profile has been activated the Kindle Fire opens a special desktop with only the content parents added to their profile. Parents can customize this content in any way they want from the apps, books and videos available on the Kindle. If the Kindle is shut off and turned back on the profile remains active. The only way to turn off the profile is to use the parental password to deactivate it.
This in itself makes Freetime an excellent assistant for parents in monitoring the content their children consume, but Freetime goes a step beyond simple content management allowing parents to set individualized time limits for different types of content. Parents can set different time limits for movies, books, and apps. This allows a parent to limit the amount of time a child plays Minecraft but still give their child unlimited time reading books.
The idea that my kids can only access approved content is wonderful enough but knowing that I can hand them the Kindle, let them walk off to their bedroom and that they cannot waste their whole evening throwing light-saber wielding birds at pigs instead of doing their math is truly wonderful. It eliminates the “just one more level, Dad” nightly debate.
Freetime Unlimited ups the ante on Freetime for parents of children between the ages of 3 and 8 by providing a huge amount of video, as well as app and book content for the child’s tablet at a low monthly price. This content is in addition to any content the parents choose to provide.
Prices start at $2.99 per child and are capped at $6.99 for up to six children with a prime membership. Parents without a prime membership can participate at a slightly higher price. Here is a summary of the great offerings provided by Freetime Unlimited:
- Parents get a large amount of video content, most of it older television titles like Kipper, Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street, Bob the Builder, Avatar and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
- On the app side parents get educational titles, including picture books read aloud, multimedia content and a wide variety of other apps like the kids’ version of Smule, the piano playing game.
- Easy access to Kindle books is one of the many reasons parents are choosing the Kindle Fire for their children. Freetime Unlimited offers a large assortment of picture books, easy reader books and other educational titles. My quick glance did not seem to show any chapter books but there are a large number of books available on a variety of topics which will definitely keep young readers busy until they’re ready for the likes of Harry Potter.
I should make clear, there is no doubt that Netflix still remains the superior choice for children’s video content. However, Freetime Unlimited is a superior overall entertainment and educational package for kids because of its addition of both apps and especially books.
What remains to be seen is how often Amazon will be refreshing the content. The current content is certainly enough for any child to get started but after a period of time children could get bored, although I am always amazed at children’s love of repetition. In the end, if Amazon does not refresh the content, parents can simply end their Freetime Unlimited subscription or augment it with content of their own which they purchase and add to the Kindle for their children.
Wired: Freetime will be a huge time saver and parenting tool for parents looking for a way to allow their children to explore tablet computing while still maintaining boundaries on both time and content. For a small montly fee, Freetime Unlimited provides excellent content to children in three different areas, apps, videos and books.
Tired: Freetime Unlimited content choices remain somewhat limited but when considered as a whole provide a more well rounded entertainment experience for kids than Netflix or other subscription services. While Freetime automates daily management of time and content for kids, it will require both upfront and ongoing maintenance from parents, a small price to pay for the end of the daily management of kids’ tablet time.