Smart speakers and their digital assistants, while undoubtedly helpful, teach kids to be bossy little shits. That’s a common complaint heard from parents who’ve watched their children ditch all semblance of manners as they bark out commands and boss around the family’s AI helper. Amazon wants to change that. Starting today, the company is selling a new colorful version of its Echo Dot speaker targeted specifically to kids. And unlike the adult model, it encourages them to say “Please” and “Thank you.”
Similar to Amazon’s popular Fire Tablet for Kids, the Echo Dot Kids Edition is essentially the exact same device ⏤ at least in terms of technology ⏤ that’s already on the market. It’s just wrapped in a rugged kid-friendly case (red, green, or blue) and two-year, “no-questions-asked-we’ll-just-send-you-a-new-one” warranty. Amazon has, however, added the same parental controls found on the Fire that allow mom and dad to control time limits, set bedtimes, filter music and shows, review activity, turn shopping off, etc. using the Parent Dashboard on the smartphone app. It also comes with a one-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, which is aimed at kids 5- to 12-years-old and includes over 300 kids books and thousands of songs, educational apps, games, movies, and TV shows. The only catch is that after the first year, Prime users who want to continue will be on the hook for the service at $2.99/month ($4.99 for others). Otherwise, they can stick with the free, limited version.
What’s really cool about enabling FreeTime on this Echo, however, is that Alexa will adopt a more kid-friendly vernacular. So she’ll speak more deliberately, give longer answers, and use a simpler vocabulary. Not only that, but she’ll encourage kids to use manners and will listen for the word “please,” often responding with a, “By the way, thanks for asking so nicely.” A much-needed change to help support parents who already require their kids to speak politely to Alexa.
The $80 Echo Dot for Kids is available for pre-order today and starts shipping on May 9.