As far as tablets go, the new Kindle Fire is one of the best family-friendly values out there. The 7-inch version retails for $174 and is a great e-reader and entertainment tablet that the whole family can enjoy, granted the right safeguards are in place.
In order to give your child a rich, age-appropriate experience on the Kindle Fire, you’ll need to follow this safety guide step by step, which means you’ll need to have the latest version of the operating system downloaded to your Kindle Fire: 10.2.4. This guide will breakdown the two-step process of password protecting all the features of the Kindle Fire and setting up Kindle FreeTime, a child-friendly marketplace of educational and fun books, videos and apps.
(Some images courtesy of groovypost.com)
From the Kindle Fire home screen swipe the black top bar down and a settings bar should appear.
Under More tap the Parental Controls option and the following screen should appear.
Then click On to enable Parental Controls. Create your password and click OK. You can now alter the Parental Control settings on the device.
From the menu, you can disable the web browser and password protect access to features such as purchasing content on Amazon.com, playing videos, accessing Wi-Fi, and using location-based services. There’s no reason to put content in front of your child that you don’t want them to access, or that they’re too young for, so I appreciate the fact that you can block certain types of content such as videos, apps, games, music, books and documents. I’ve removed the links to Skype and Facebook, for example, and eliminated the email icon from favorites since my daughter is a few years away from getting an email account.
Blocking a certain content type from the Parental Controls screen will remove that item from the Kindle navigation bar at the top of the home page (see below).
When you’re done, tap the back arrow in the lower left hand corner of the Parental Controls menu.
Internet access on the Kindle Fire is essentially the gateway to other features that you might not want your children to access without your permission and oversight, so I recommend testing the Wi-Fi password that you just set up to be sure it’s working properly before you hand it over to your child.
To test your Wi-Fi password, simply tap the Wireless tab and turn it off. Then click the house icon in the lower left hand corner to go back to the homepage. On the homepage, swipe the black top bar down again to bring up the menu. Tap the Wi-Fi button and switch Wi-Fi to On. If everything is working properly a password should be required here.
The Kindle Store can be a bit overwhelming to sort through, especially if you’re new to ebooks. If you’re gifting the Kindle Fire to a child, it makes sense that you only want them to have access to the age-appropriate content that was intended for them, not Fifty Shades of Grey.
Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime app has made this sorting process much easier and user-friendly by providing children with a library of content that’s educational and kid-friendly.
The content in the FreeTime library is free to FreeTime subscribers ($4.99/mo, with lower prices for additional children and Amazon Prime members). Each child sees only the content (books, videos and apps) in the FreeTime library and any additional content added by you (details below). Kids cannot exit the Kindle FreeTime app without the Parental Controls password, preventing them from accessing other content on the Kindle Fire without your explicit permission.
Daily Time Limits
Another nice thing about FreeTime is it gives parents the ability to set daily time limits for reading books, watching TV shows and movies and using apps. As you can imagine, this is a huge plus for parents who want to limit game time to an hour or two a day without affecting their child’s desire to read for hours on end.
Setting It Up and Adding Content
To set up FreeTime, download the app from the Amazon Store and launch it.
You’ll be asked to enter your Parental Controls password. You’ll then be asked to create a user account so input all the necessary information and tap Next. You can add up to six profiles.
As mentioned before, the FreeTime app grants your child access to a ton of books, videos and apps. But beyond that, parents can manually add books, videos and apps that they’ve purchased from the Amazon Store.
To manually add content to your child’s profile, launch the FreeTime app and tap Manage Content & Subscription at the bottom of the page. Enter your password and tap Add Titles to (child’s username) Library. You’ll then be presented with a list of the books, videos and apps that YOU own on YOUR account. From this screen, you can tap the content that you wish to make available on their FreeTime account.
Once FreeTime is running in the background, your children can’t leave the application without knowing the parental controls password, so I highly recommend keeping the password a secret, and something that they’ll never guess. I know, this seems like such common-sense advice, but we all know that when things get hectic in our lives we tend to overlook the consequences of small decisions, like the decision to tell your child the password because it’s easier than doing it yourself.
A Few Other Things to Note
- If you choose to block apps from the Parental Controls screen, you will also be blocking access to FreeTime since it is an app.
- The apps that you most recently accessed are shown as big block icons on the Kindle Fire home screen, right when you turn it on. I leave the FreeTime app here so my daughter doesn’t have to look for it, but if you want to remove an icon from this page, simply tap and hold and you’ll see the option to “Remove from Carousel”.
- Before finalizing your purchase of a Kindle Fire tablet, it’s important to know that the retail version ($174) does not show ads on the tablet’s lock screen, whereas the subsidized one that’s priced at $159.99 does.
- Specific to FreeTime, the only content that your child will be able to access on-the-go is content that’s been synced to your Kindle Fire. This syncing process is identified by the orange loading bar that appears over the content’s icon when you/your child first tap it from the FreeTime dashboard.
In my home, the Kindle Fire will be under the tree for my daughter. She loves to read and I think it’s amazing that there’s technology out there that can greatly enhance her learning experience. That being said, the Kindle Fire is, in a lot of ways, a tablet, just like the iPad. And just like with the iPad (or any tablet for that matter), we have the responsibility as parents to make sure our children have a safe experience, away from the adult content and culture that’s so easily accessible to them simply because the device they’re using is connected to the Internet. So, I’ve taken the necessary steps to do that for my daughter, and my advice to you is that you do the same.
We should never deprive our children of these wonderful devices and services, but we have to introduce it to them in small doses, and more importantly, in a way that we feel works best for them. After all, technology is never one-size fits all.