If your kids are all over their Alexa like “Alexa, play my favorite song!” and “Alexa, who was the third President of the United States?!” then it might not be too long until they start barking commands at you too: “Mom, get me some water!” Thankfully, Amazon has a new plan to help your kids remember their manners, even when talking to a digital assistant.
Amazon’s new “Free Time” mode for Alexa-enabled devices, like the Echo and Echo Dot, is a free feature where adults can set parental controls up including time limits (so your kids can’t talk to Alexa during homework or after bedtime), block explicit songs on Amazon Music (a major plus in my house since all Top 40 songs seem to feature large amounts of curse words) and the best feature, which is called Magic Word. When Magic Word is activated, Alexa will only respond to commands containing the word “please.”
Other features include activity review (so you can see what those little devils ask Alexa when you’re not in the room), an educational Q&A (my first grader loves quizzing Alexa on her math skills just because he likes practicing what he learned in school that day) and a list of activity suggestions or jokes if your kid complains “Alexa, I’m bored!”
Free Time features, like parental controls, are already available on devices like Kindle Fire and Kindle Reader, and the software update for Echo and Echo Dot is also available as of May 9.
Also new for Alexa devices is Free Time Unlimited, a subscription service where parents can pay a monthly fee for access to over 300 audible books, kid-friendly radio from iHeartRadio and premium Alexa skills from Disney and Nickelodeon, including alarms from their favorite characters. This subscription, for as low as $2.99 a month, also covers Kindle Fire Tablets and Android devices so they can get apps and books as well.
Last, Amazon is rolling out a kid-proof Echo Dot that will resist wear and tear and come with a one-year Free Time Unlimited subscription built-in, all for $79.99.
Honestly, keeping the Magic Word feature on all the time would probably be good for everyone in the house -- who couldn't use a brush-up on their manners? Not to mention that kids learn by example. Who knew that Dennis Nedry’s password protection from “Jurassic Park” would be the one part of the movie that would be real in 2018?