Tell Me About Amazon FreeTime

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Kids and their devices. Keeping track of it all sorta feels like trying to grab a tiger by the tail doesn’t it? Especially since today’s techy tykes might know more about the ins and outs of your tablets and phones than you do.

Well, in our never-ending quest to help parents feel like they have the totalitarian power of Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984 … wait, that didn’t come out right. What I meant to say is, in our quest to let parents know that they have a lot more options at their fingertips than they think they do, let me tell you about another useful media safety tool that’s available. It’s a kid-zone called FreeTime that you can access and set up on Amazon’s latest Kindle Fire tablets (available now as a free app for other Android users, as well) .

 

 

The above YouTube clip gives you a sense of how the FreeTime app lets you set up a worry free password-encrypted environment for the kids. It’s an area that’s set aside and filled with only the kinds of stuff you feel comfortable with (grouped to be appropriate for ages 3 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to12). And it points out how parents can set time limits and restrictions for specific activities such as videogame play, movies and the like.

What this vid doesn’t talk about, however, are a couple new features that Amazon recently added to FreeTime.

The first is something called a Parent Dashboard that can be accessed from any connected browser and that can essentially work up a daily activity report of how the youngsters are spending their time. The report lays out a pie chart of videos they watched, games they played, websites they visited, etc., and breaks things down to the minutes spent on any given activity.

New feature number two wears the label “Discussion Cards.” If Dad, for example, is hoping to spark up a thoughtful conversation or two on the items that little Susie is consuming on her tablet, these little tidbits might just come in handy. The cards are penned by Amazon’s content editors and cover lots of the videos, books, educational apps and games inside FreeTime. And they’re geared to little Susie or Simon’s age level, too. Granted, they might not be particularly deep. But if little Susie’s into a Minecraft app and Dad doesn’t know an Enderman from a Creeper, the questions will at least give him a little guidance: “What sort of things do you like to build in Minecraft?” a question might read, which just could spark a nice father-daughter sit-down.

Granted, they might not be too pointedly specific, but hey, a simple prompt for that Minecraft app that you’ve never played won’t hurt.

Amazon reports that more than 10 million kids are a part of the FreeTime community at this point. There’s a free version of the app and a subscription-based FreeTime Unlimited which offers premium access to some 13,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games from the likes of Disney, Nickelodeon, DC Comics, PBS Kids, and Electronic Arts, among others.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Laura Stock More than 1 year ago
Where is this available? It isn't on Google Play. Is it only available in the US? I'm in Canada. Is it only for tablets or is it also for phones?
LKnerl More than 1 year ago
Laura, this is an Amazon-only app for the Kindle. You'll need a Kindle Fire device to use it and you'll be prompted to download the FreeTime app when you set up your Kindle for the first time. We have 3 kindles in our house of 8 people and use them often for homeschool. The app was one of the reasons we chose the kindle over the other tablet options out there.
SJamison More than 1 year ago
The 1984 allusion is not necessarily inapt.  Parents do need to let their children feel they can have some privacy and freedom to make their own decisions.  (Even and perhaps *especially* if some of those decisions are unwise.)  I have heard repeated testimony from people whose parents insisted on knowing everything and monitoring constantly, that it just taught them they could not trust their parents and to cultivate lying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You have a point but I think it swings the pendulum too far.  Monitoring without always assuming your kids are guilty of something helps keep a balanced interaction with them.  Just because over-monitoring cultivates lying, doesn't mean our kids should have privacy from parents.  Parents need to treat the information they have about their kids activity as a privilege and opportunity to be a voice of wisdom in their life and keep their fears in check as they help them navigate through the dangers of the world.  A private world for kids who don't know how to navigate a dark world is a huge danger.
SJamison More than 1 year ago
Some thoughts, based on the information I've heard and read:  There are some key warning signs that parents might see if they're taking monitoring too far.  
1)  Not adjusting for more privacy as the child develops.  six-year olds don't need a lot of privacy and do need a lot of monitoring to stay safe.  Twelve-year olds need considerably more privacy, and on up the ladder.  If you're still treating your child's privacy as though they were much younger, it's a bad sign.  For example, knowing your six-year-old's passwords is a must, but insisting that your twelve year old hand over their passwords, not a good look. 
 2) Reacting to information they could only have learned by violating their child's privacy.  The classic "snooping in the diary" then flipping out scenario.  Maybe your daughter does have a crush on a boy you think is too old for her, but that doesn't mean shouting about it based on her journal marked "private" is a good idea.
3. Violating other people's secrets, making your child look like someone who can't be trusted.  For example, Bob is having some issues, and hasn't told his parents because he knows they don't handle these things well, but does mention them to your son in text messages because they're close friends.  You learn this information by reading your son's texts, then tell Bob's parents.  Bob's parents don't react well, and he breaks off contact with your son because he obviously betrayed Bob.