Amazon Echo Dot Kids 'child-friendly' smart speaker launches today – here's why you should consider it
The new device comes in two colourful designs – Tiger or Panda – and is pitched as a way to help kids “have fun and learn with Alexa."
An Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker specifically designed for children has just launched in the UK – now available in two colourful animal designs.
Known as the Echo Dot Kids, the 4th generation device comes in either a panda or tiger version and is pitched as a way to help kids “have fun and learn with Alexa,” the voice assistant that also powers Amazon's Echo Show and Echo ranges.
For adults, the Echo series is helpful for checking the news, listening to music and powering smart home products such as light bulbs and video doorbells.
But for children, the Echo Dot Kids is a way to hear age-appropriate audiobooks, listen to ad-free music stations, set alarms featuring cartoon characters, respond to educational questions and even attempt to learn some good manners.
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A child-focused model of the Echo Dot has been available in the US for years but is only now being made available to UK customers. It’s a cute little speaker, but one that will no doubt spark some concerns about privacy and data security – even if Amazon has stressed there will be tight parental controls for all families.
Alongside the hardware, Amazon is also rolling out a free family-friendly update – Amazon Kids on Alexa – bringing some base features to all Echos. Here’s what you need to know about the device and why you should consider picking one up.
The Echo range has expanded in recent years – but we have got plenty of hands-on time with the devices. Don’t miss our Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) review, Amazon Echo Show 10 review and our monthly guide to the best Amazon Echo deals.
What is the Echo Dot Kids?
The Echo Dot Kids is a smart speaker made by Amazon that tailors voice responses and content solely towards children. It looks identical to the adult-focused Echo Dot – with a ball shape design first seen in the 4th generation model – but comes in two new colourful design schemes showing a Tiger or Panda on the front.
What does the Echo Dot Kids do?
Essentially the Echo Dot Kids is a bright and cutesy smart speaker made for kids that also lets parents put limitations on what type of content can be heard and when.
The Echo Dot Kids speaker is powered by Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, so it responds to voice commands, but there are restrictions on voice purchasing, the ability to filter explicit lyrics in songs and set time limits on any night use.
The speaker offers learning and skills content from shows or creators, including Numberblocks, Alphablocks, Disney and Harry Potter – and is bundled with a one-year family-plan membership to the full Amazon Kids+ subscription service.
The new speaker also has a two-year guarantee that will result in a “no questions asked” replacement if anything happens to the device. Amazon says that parents will have access to a dashboard via the Alexa app to review activity, turn off the Dot Kid’s microphone and choose exactly what content their children can access.
How to buy the Echo Dot Kids?
What is Amazon Kids on Alexa?
Even if you don’t want to subscribe to Amazon Kids+ or pick up the new Echo Dot Kids speaker, a new child-focused software update is being released at no cost that will work on existing Echo hardware. That’s Amazon Kids on Alexa.
Here are some of the features it will let you do:
- A “magic word” feature advises children to use the word please when asking questions to the Alexa voice assistant.
- Alexa will respond to a variety of educational subjects, including questions about school subjects like science, maths, spelling and definitions.
- Alexa will have age-appropriate suggestions ready for children and tell jokes if asked the phrase “Alexa, I’m bored.”
- Amazon Kids on Alexa also enables household announcements, calling, and messaging via the Echo devices – perfect for dinner time.
- New security and privacy controls, including blocking bad language in music on Amazon Music, Apple Music or Spotify, and a dashboard via the Alexa app to review activity, voice recordings, or turn off services.
Amazon Kids+ on Alexa is a second, paid tier of the subscription. It adds content such as access to over 170 Audible books, ad-free music for kids, premium skills content from brands and the ability to set alarms featuring cartoon characters.
If you are an existing Amazon Kids+ member on Fire Kids tablets, the Kids+ Alexa features, parental controls and subscription content won't cost anything.
Anyone signing up to the base Amazon Kids+ for the first time can join for £1.99 per month (Prime members) or £3.99 (non-Prime members.)
Amazon Kids on Alexa updates became available to turn on via the Alexa app for Echo devices through an over-the-air software update on July 21st.
Why you should consider an Echo Dot Kids
Smart home speakers are more common than ever these days – and it's becoming second nature to shout commands at devices to receive instant access to news, weather updates, music playlists or even interact with lights or video doorbells.
That goes for adults and children – but the normal Echo series won’t be tailored for young ears. That’s where the Echo Dot Kids comes in handy.
The Kids edition gives your child a neutered glimpse of this tech – and could prove to be seriously useful at letting them experience a voice assistant while slashing the risk of hearing bad words in music or asking questions that go without monitoring.
Instead, it will play age-appropriate music or radio stations, let them listen to their favourite audiobooks or even call family members who are approved.
Amazon seems well aware that not everyone will be comfortable putting what is essentially a listening device in their child’s bedroom, so it has been keen to stress there are a variety of protections in place, including a dashboard managing the microphone, set use time limits and toggle if voice recordings are saved.
These are all accessed via the Alexa smartphone app, so it's very easy to keep track of what your child is up to when using the smart speaker.
Whether that's enough will be your personal choice, but even at its most basic, the cutesy smart speaker has its uses: setting an alarm to wake up in the morning or letting your child ask school questions if they get totally stuck on homework.
In another major plus for parents, Amazon’s 2-year “worry-free” guarantee offers a no-questions-asked replacement for breakages, while the device is bundled with a one year Amazon Kids+ membership, giving access to a slew of premium content.
So with those features (and limitations) in mind, the Echo Dot Kids certainly seems like one of the better options if you are considering a smart speaker for your child.
For the latest news, reviews and deals, check out the RadioTimes.com Technology section. Shopping for a new smart speaker? Read our guide to the best Amazon Echo deals, and don’t miss our in-depth Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) review.