Its no secret that I like Amazon and their services. There are a lot of things they do much better than their competition, but there are also quite a few things that could use some re-thinking.
As I mentioned in my Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet Review, one of the compelling reasons to purchase the Fire tablets was access to FreeTime and FreeTime Unlimited. Amazon’s FreeTime app is great, you can create custom profiles for each child and they can only have access to the content you specify. You can also manage aspects of it from your Family Library on the Amazon web site, which is the preferred method for me to do it.
Now, FreeTime Unlimited gives access to thousands of apps, books and videos that they claim to be kid friendly. They base the content on the age of the child that you have specified for the profile. Once you enable it, thats it, they now have hundreds of books, apps, and videos available to them automatically. Sounds pretty good, right? In theory it sounds fantastic, but the reality is far from it.
Say for example that I don’t want my kids watching Barney or Spongebob Squarepants — which I don’t. I have to go into the FreeTime app and explicitly exclude all apps and videos that I don’t want them to have access to. Not a problem, I thought. So Jessica and I each grabbed a tablet and started removing all of the things we didn’t want them to start seeing just yet. This includes a lot of age inappropriate books, videos and apps. At four years old, he’s really not ready for the violence in a lot of the super hero genres, for example. We removed hundreds of apps, videos and books. It took us each over an hour. It also only shows you the icon, not the title, so there is a lot of guessing involved.
Okay, done. Not too bad, now the kids only have the content we want them to see. For a little while, anyway. Things were fine until Amazon added more content to the FreeTime Unlimited library. We didn’t know it until Alex commented about the new stuff on his tablet. And therein lies the real problem with the way Amazon has set this up. Its explicitly opt-out of content, when it should be explicitly opt-in. Or better still, give us the choice.
Also, there is no way to do it on the Amazon web site in the Family Library, it has to be done from a Fire tablet.
In short, FreeTime Unlimited service would be fantastic if the following changes were made:
- Make the default method for selecting content explicitly opt-in. Disable all content unless I explicitly say they can have access to it.
- Notify me when there is new content available in FreeTime Unlimited. I get notifications for a lot of other things, but not for this.
- Give us the choice of using an opt-out or opt-in default selection. For older kids, its not much of an issue using the current opt-out method, but for kids under 6 or so, there is too much violent content included.
- Give us a way to manage it from the web site.