I’ve been reviewing tech products for years. But I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve relied so heavily on my children’s opinion before filing a review.
You see, last week Amazon sent me the Echo Dot Kids Edition. Although I have several Echo devices in the home all powered by Amazon’s virtual personal assistant Alexa, the Echo Dot Kids Edition isn’t for me or my wife—it’s for our children. And after several days with the device and time for the kids to try it out, I can tell you that the Echo Dot Kids Edition is worth buying for your children.
Now I can appreciate that there are many parents that don’t like the idea of their children talking to Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa. And I can tell you that you will feel a little uneasy when you see your children, seemingly born with the knowledge of how to communicate with a gadget, ask the virtual assistant in the small disc on their nightstand to tell them a story from their favorite Disney movie. You might also find it odd when your children request to have Alexa read them a story from a favorite book instead of you or listen from the other room as your kids are dancing to some of their favorite songs—all accessible with a simple request.
But I can also tell you that Amazon has done an outstanding job of giving you, the parent, control.
As soon as I broke the Echo Dot Kids Edition out of its box and set it up, I was given full control over how and when my kids could use their new toy. I was able, through Amazon’s FreeTime parental controls, to decide what kind of content my kids could access. I could decide for myself the times when they couldn’t communicate with Alexa. And if I wanted to turn off explicit songs from Amazon Music (and I did), I only had to confirm that choice from my phone.
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In an odd twist, after my parental controls were set up and I confirmed they were working, I didn’t worry about leaving the Echo Dot Kids Edition in my child’s room. And I also didn’t mind when he asked to have some of his favorite characters wake him up with the alarm clock or ask for a story he loves.
On the hardware side, I liked that Amazon simply re-purposed its already popular Echo Dot. The device is small, disc-like, and easy to place anywhere in a room. But you’ll notice quickly that if you try to use its built-in speakers, the sound quality is downright awful. My children even remarked at how poorly their songs sounded on the Echo Dot Kids Edition compared to some of the other speakers we have in the house. If you want better-sounding audio, then, you’ll want to connect the device to external speakers.
At $80, the Echo Dot Kids Edition is nicely affordable. But your total cost of ownership might prove to be far more expensive.
The device comes with one year of free access to ad-free radio stations, like Radio Disney, audiobooks from Audible, and special alarms your kids might like, among other features. After that, you’ll need to sign up for Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited, which gives you access to all the content that, after a year, your child probably won’t want to lose. That’ll set you back $4.99 per month (or $2.99 a month if you’re a Prime member) for a single child. If you want the family membership with up to four kids, you’ll be paying $9.99 per month or $6.99 per month if you’re a Prime subscriber.
Despite that, the Echo Dot Kids Edition still offers a nice value, if you’re in the market for a new device for the kids.
And perhaps that’s the biggest hurdle the Echo Dot Kids Edition will face. The Echo Dot Kids Edition does everything you, a radio, and an alarm clock can do. But if you’re not so keen on your kids talking to a machine, it’s not for you.
But if you’re looking for some tech that your kids can enjoy without (too much) parental supervision, the Echo Dot Kids Edition is the device for you—and your kids.