Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime Becomes An Even Better Babysitter, With New Educational Feature That Tells Kids To “Learn First,” Play Later

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Kindle FreeTime, Amazon’s parental control software built into its line of Kindle Fire devices, is being upgraded ahead of the holidays with additional educational features that will help the tablet do even more of the parenting on your behalf.

Already capable of setting time limits on things like games and videos, the new FreeTime software is now adding educational goals, which allow parents to block access to Kindle’s more “fun” fare, like cartoons and games, until specific goals are met. These could include time spent reading or, for preschoolers not yet able to read, it could mean only allowing access to parent-approved educational apps.

“We know kids spend a lot of time every day looking at screens, and we’re excited to add new tools that help parents make this time more educational,” explains Peter Larsen, Vice President, Amazon Kindle, in a statement this morning about the updated software. “Parents can use features like ‘Learn First’ to ensure study comes before play and set daily educational goals for reading and learning,” he says.

With “Learn First,” other non-educational content is removed from the child’s FreeTime library, until their goals are met.

To make the new educational goal-setting feature properly work, Amazon categorized all the content in Kindle FreeTime’s curated collection of kid-focused apps, books, games and videos as “educational” or “entertainment,” as well as the top 10,000 most popular kids’ books, videos and apps on Amazon.com.

screen-limits4The subscription-based FreeTime Unlimited collection is also being expanded to include thousands of common core-aligned leveled readers and supplemental readers, most of which will be available for the first time in digital format, notes Amazon. The readers come from publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Starwalk Kids Media LLC, The Child’s World, Sleeping Bear Press, Lerner Publishing, and Cherry Lake Publishing.

Amazon says hundreds of these titles will arrive by Christmas, with the rest arriving early next year.

Other educational content in this service includes kid-friendly learning apps like Team Umizoomi Math, Super Why!, Stack the States, Curious George at the Zoo, Elmo Loves 123’s, Write the Alphabet, Kids Learn To Read, those from BrainPOP and Agnitus, language learning programs from Little Pim, and more. There are also over 2,000 educational TV shows and movies from providers like Sesame Street, PBS, Reading Rainbow, and BabyFirst TV.

And finally, in another boon to parents, borrowed library books will also soon be available to kids via Kindle FreeTime, says Amazon, and Prime members with access to the Kindle Lending Library will be able to add those books to FreeTime, too.

For Amazon, the move is a larger push not only to sell more tablets to parents over the holidays (naturally), but to better establish the Kindle Fire tablets as those which are better for parents and their children than the competition. In terms of the parental control software, and now the educational goal-setting feature, Amazon is able to make a strong case for this. However, the Apple iPad still has the app collection to beat, with over a million apps worldwide to choose from, 475,000+ of which are made for iPad. Many of the best kids app makers still focus on launching iOS-first, too, which is a challenge Amazon has to overcome.

Apple also recently introduced a Kids’ App Store within iTunes, where content is only permitted if it doesn’t market directly to kids via ads and in-app purchases, making it easier for parents to find the best kids apps on the App Store.

However, parental controls is an area where Apple falls short, which gives Amazon an angle. Although the ability to block iOS’s default apps as well as content (apps, music, video, e.g.) by ratings is built-in, Apple’s iOS doesn’t get anywhere near what Amazon offers in terms of time of day restrictions, time limits or now goal setting, as with FreeTime.

Amazon says the Kindle Fire tablets (Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HDX 7” and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9”) will be updated with the new FreeTime features in the coming weeks.