January 23, 2014 in Reviews
*with some glaring, super frustrating, but seemingly easy to fix flaws.
** DISCLAIMER ** If you are offended by using technology as a babysitting device, you can skip this article. While I do see how these things can be abused, I think, used properly, they are a huge advancement in education and parental sanity.
This year, the Little Read Mom and I got each other new Kindles for Christmas. She wanted the Paper White and I opted for the Kindle Fire HDX. I had the original Kindle Fire (which sadly was left on a train and never returned) and was looking to upgrade anyway (we already purchased the HDX when I lost mine. I didn’t “lose” it to get a new one).
I was super excited for the HDX for many reasons, the main one being Kinde FreeTime. For those of you who don’t know, Kindle FreeTime is an app that runs on the Kindle Fire HD or HDX that essentially puts the device into “Kid Mode”. You set up profiles for each child and select which books, videos and apps they can have access to. The child cannot get out of this mode without a parent, so there is no worry of them doing something like deleting your personal stuff or purchasing expensive apps. It also allows you to control what they have access to.
You can also sign up for Kindle’s FreeTime Unlimited, which is a monthly subscription service that delivers age and gender appropriate books, videos and apps to the device. These items are “free” to download and view.
Many might bemoan this as more babysitting through devices. They would not be wrong. However, where FreeTime really distinguishes itself is through the parental control. You can control how much time is dedicated to each area. You can also set learning goals, so a child must spend 30 minutes reading books before they can unlock the videos and apps.
For example, I have two children; a 2 year old and a 5 year old. The 5 year old is learning to read, so he must complete 15 minutes of reading before he can get to the apps and videos. There are many “reader” books available to him through the FreeTime Unlimited, but you can also purchase books and grant access. My two year old does not have this restriction. I have also limited each of them to a certain amount of time for videos and apps. Genius! Now each has their own environment to learn, explore and play.
You may be asking yourself, “But Little Read Dad, you said it has some, ‘glaring, super frustrating, but seemingly easy to fix flaws.’” Yes. Sadly, it does.
The first flaw is the organization. I don’t know how someone at Amazon has not looked at Netflix to see how to organize content. Seriously. It’s not alphabetical. It’s not by released date. They don’t even keep multiple seasons of the same show together. You may see Sesame Street Season 40 followed by six other shows and then Sesame Street Season 41. Why would you not just have Sesame Street and then you click on it and you see all the seasons? It’s infuriating. It’s chaotic. It seems like it should be really easy to fix.
The second flaw, and this is not as bad as the first, but still frustrating, is that the content provided with FreeTime Unlimited is age, and I assume, gender appropriate. That’s great. I like that. Except you cannot go outside these parameters. For instance, my two year old has access to all the Toca Boca apps (the hair cutting, the cooking one, a train one) that my five year old does not. Now, they may be a bit below his age, but he enjoys playing them and there is no way to move them over! There is no long press, select “Make Available to Other Account” option. Again, seems like it should be easy to fix and it’s SUPER annoying, especially since now my five year old will go into his sister’s account to play.
In the end it is a great App/Product/Idea that I hope they continue to refine. If you have a Kindle Fire HD or HDX, and children, I highly recommend it. If you are looking for a tablet/reader and you have children, get a Kindle Fire HD or HDX.
Even if you don’t have kids, I really like this device. The biggest non-kids selling point: you can download certain free prime movies for 30 days so you don’t need an internet connection to take advantage of the Amazon Prime Videos. COOL!