Amazon FreeTime, the subscription service offering kid-friendly books, videos, apps and games, is today rolling out a feature called Discussion Cards that will help parents better understand the content their child is viewing, reading or playing. The feature will be a part of a new Parent Dashboard that will also include activity reports and other insights into how the child has been using their device.
With the Discussion Cards, the idea is to help parents have more productive conversations about whatever it is the child is engaging with at the time. The cards may also suggest ways to connect that digital behavior to real life.
For example, if the child was reading a National Geographic title like “Cats vs. Dogs,” the Discussion Card might prompt parents to ask questions like “which pet do you like and why?” or it may suggest that the family could go volunteer at a shelter together.
The cards themselves are written by Amazon’s Content Editors and will cover many of the videos, books, educational apps and games inside FreeTime, plus some of the more popular titles often added to FreeTime by parents.
At launch, Amazon says there are thousands of cards available, and more are added daily.
Parents will be able to access the cards in FreeTime’s new Parent Dashboard, which is where they can also view a daily activity report for their child’s device use. This will include what books were read, videos watched, apps or games played, and websites visited. It also shows how many minutes were spent on a given title and how that may have changed over the course of the week.
This information can help to inform parents as to how to configure their child’s FreeTime profile, where they can adjust screen time, time limits and daily education goals. But more generally, it allows parents to track their child’s changing interests over time with different types of content as well as with individual titles.
Initially, it may seem a little odd (or even creepy) that parents need to rely on software to know what their child is interested in, but digital platforms have changed the visibility that parents have traditionally had into their kids’ lives. Instead of dog-eared books on nightstands or board games and toys scattered around the room, kids often turn to e-books, apps and digital games instead. And with their nose buried in their tablet, parents aren’t always aware what kids are up to.
Of course, the idea to offer a parental dashboard like FreeTime is now doing is not something unique to Amazon – many kids’ app makers have included the technology into their own games and apps, and it’s a standard feature in third-party internet control software, too.
However, of the OS makers themselves – Google, Apple and Amazon – it’s interesting that it’s Amazon that has so far shown the most thoughtful approach to managing kids’ digital lives, ranging from its sturdy (and insured) tablet line for kids to its robust parental controls, as well as this kid-safe FreeTime content subscription. (Unfortunately, iOS still has some of the better games and apps, which still makes for a difficult choice; and moms or dads with iPhones often want to buy into the whole Apple ecosystem instead.)
Discussion Cards are included in Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which is $2.99/month for Prime members per child, or $4.99/month for non-members; family plans for up to 4 kids are also available, starting at $6.99/month. Amazon says the service now reaches over 10 million users.
The Parent Dashboard with Discussion Cards is available starting today.