Amazon just gave you a way to track what your kids are doing online.
If your kids use Amazon's Kindle app Freetime to tablet to read, play games, or access the web, you can use a new tool called the Amazon Parent Dashboard to track — and control — what they're doing.
Fights over screen time can be a nuisance to both parents and kids, as a wealth of parenting blogs can attest to. But it's not just kids who might be holding onto their devices too long: The American Academy of Pediatrics writes that "Heavy parent use of mobile devices... may be associated with more parent-child conflict." So watch yourself, parents.
The Parent Dashboard, which parents can access through their own Amazon accounts, displays how much time a child has spent using their tablet and breaks it down into four categories: books, videos, apps, and the web. You can click on each category in the dashboard to see what your kids have been reading or playing. Parents have to go into the FreeTime app on the kids' Kindles to make changes to time restrictions and settings.
FreeTime already allows parents to limit how much time their kids spend on any one type of media and in the app overall, so Amazon said a tracking dashboard was the next logical step.
To make sure content available on kids' Kindles is appropriate, Amazon content editors whitelist sites and YouTube videos as safe for kids. The tablets are aimed at kids between the ages of three and 12 and have 10 million users worldwide, according to Amazon, though it won't say how many users have bought a subscription for access to premium content. Kids also can't make in-app purchases in FreeTime. (The FTC recently fined the company over unauthorized in-app game purchases made by users' children as they played on Amazon devices.)
Within the Parent Dashboard, Amazon launched another new feature: Spark Notes for kids' books.
Not literally. But almost. They're called "Discussion Cards," and Amazon content editors have written summaries and discussion questions for books, educational apps, games, and videos you can access on your kids' Kindle.
But they're basically cheat sheets for whatever your kids are watching, reading, and playing, and give you prompts for talking with your kids about what they're doing on their tablets. They might work especially well for parents with multiple kids who don't want to read yet another Curious George book.
Amazon said it's releasing thousands of Discussion Cards for its most popular titles within the app, but it wouldn't specify exactly how many.
Kurt Beidler, Director of Kids Family at Amazon, said in a statement that the feature is intended for parents to "avoid the dreaded one-word response." He went on: "Ideally, parents will have read the book, but they may not have had time to go through it and develop in-depth questions like we have, or they may have read the book a long time ago."