Buying technology for your kids always comes with some risks. First, there's the question of what kind of content they may be able to access. Connected devices can tune in to a range of content, and it isn't always appropriate for children. Then there's the question of cost, particularly when you're buying for younger children who may be prone to breaking things.
Amazon's answer to this problem has been special kid-friendly versions of its devices, with 7" and 8" Kids Edition versions of its Fire tablets — and the new Echo Dot Kids Edition smart speaker follows the same formula. While the hardware is the same as any other Echo Dot, the Kids Edition comes with some must-have features for parents' peace of mind.
Like other Kids Edition devices, it includes a year's subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, which includes a curated collection of age-appropriate content for your child. On the Echo, this is specifically tailored towards audio, with thousands of songs and hundreds of audiobooks, as well as voice-activated games and skills by Disney, Nickelodeon and more. And with the rollout of the Echo Dot Kids Edition, they added 300 new audio books to the service's already robust collection.
Alexa has some new free content just for kids, too. With Alexa Freetime turned on, kids will receive more information when they ask questions. For instance, if you ask how many planets there are, Alexa won't just reply with the number, she will also name all of the planets and explain why Pluto isn't still considered a planet. Alexa will also stress good manners with positive reinforcement when kids say "please" and "thank you." You can even use it as an intercom when paired up with other Echo devices, making it easy to call the kids to dinner. And if you already own an Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Plus, you can turn on Alexa Freetime per device when the device launches in early May.
In addition to the collection of kids' content that makes up FreeTime Unlimited, Echo Dot Kids Edition includes Amazon's Parent Dashboard. This brings strong parental controls to your Amazon devices, letting you set time limits and bedtimes, limit access to certain features (like shopping), and filter access to explicit songs on Amazon Music. The combination of FreeTime Unlimited and Amazon's great parental controls make this an excellent gadget.
And when it comes to kids mistreating their electronics, Amazon has you covered. It comes with a brightly-colored case to protect it if it's knocked off a table. If it gets broken anyway, a 2-year worry-free guarantee means they'll replace it, no questions asked.
It isn't a perfect device. There's less content for the Echo Kids Edition than the Fire Tablet Kids Edition, and it has some quirks (like not being able to stream music from Spotify or Pandora). Still, the device shows a lot of promise and could become a must-have.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition retails for $79.99, which is quite a jump from the Echo Dot's $49.99 price. However, for all of the extras you get, it's worth it. You can pre-order it now and it will ship on May 9.
[Image credit: Suzanne Kantra/Techlicious]