PHOENIX - If you own a tablet and have kids, you can feel my parental pain. Kids love tablets and they claim ownership to Mommy and Daddy's tablet. I won't argue the fact that kids shouldn't spend all day on a tablet. That falls into the "duh" file for me. Nonetheless, a little tablet time doesn't hurt a kid especially if it is something more mind stimulating than Angry Birds. Amazon recently launched a new service designed to help parents control their kid's tablet experience while also offering a long list of apps, books, TV shows and movies for kids to enjoy. It's called Amazon Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.
How does it work?
Kindle FreeTime is an app on the Kindle Fire HD that gives parents uber control over content and apps. FreeTime is free on newer generation Kindles. Kindle FreeTime " Unlimited" is an extension of FreeTime that provides unrestricted access to a long list of media and education apps for a monthly subscription. Kindle FreeTime locks access to your Kindle. Your kids can browse the apps and media within FreeTime but the only way to get back to the original Kindle experience is to punch in a password created by Mommy or Daddy. There are no in-app purchases on these apps, no way to accidentally buy a new app or movie. It's locked down, Fort Knox style.
What do I get with the Unlimited subscription?
The list of included apps and media is long. Amazon claims it's in the "thousands." I believe it. It seems endless. Browsing through the content was easy for my 4-year-old. He had no problem finding the Spiderman interactive books and downloading a few of them. The nice thing is, I feel good knowing everything is included in the price and everything is kid appropriate. There will be no surprises on my credit card.
Control Control Control
At the center of the FreeTime app is parental control. Not only does it lock down everything on the tablet so your kid won't mess up your "stuff" but it also gives parents superpowers. Set daily time limits for reading books, watching videos and using apps. For example, allow your child to read books as much as he wants but limit videos to 30 minutes and app usage to 30 minutes. I love this! My kid may get frustrated but that's life. It makes controlling tablet usage much easier for parents.
The biggest problem is that you'll still need to wrestle with your kid to get your Kindle back. For most parents there will be a breaking point where it makes more sense to drop $199 and buy your child their own Kindle Fire HD. I'm sure Amazon would love it if you did! With FreeTime you can at least feel good knowing that when they do have your tablet in their little hands, they're using educational apps.
How much will this cost me?
There is a price to pay. For non-Amazon Prime members, it's $4.99 for one child or $9.99 for up to 6 kids. If you already pay for Prime, it's $2.99 for a single child and $6.99 for the whole family. If you can teach your kids to share one profile and share their limited time, it might make more sense to just share the single child subscription.
Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is a great deal for parents who want to give their children access to a tablet but also want to control the experience. The apps and media you get for the price is well worth it. It'll keep your children entertained in an educational manner for hours and hours on end. Unless of course you set a limit using the FreeTime app, then they'll be forced to shut it off and get outside. A little non-tech time will do them some good too.
You can access the FreeTime app on any Kindle Fire HD. You can subscribe to the unlimited service within the FreeTime app.