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.