As Google, Disney and Amazon continue to compete for kids’ attention in the online space, it’s the parents, ultimately, who are winning. Today, Amazon has rolled out a new Parent Dashboard feature designed to provide better insight into what exactly kids are doing—and enjoying—on their screens.
The new dashboard is a webpage, rather than an app or separate program, and can be accessed for free by Amazon subscribers in the US, the UK and Germany. It provides access to daily activity reports of a child’s device usage while in his or her Amazon FreeTime profile. (Amazon’s subscription-based FreeTime program contains thousands of books, videos and apps that are used by more than 10 million children.)
Dashboard reports include information like videos watched, books read, apps or games played and websites visited, including how many minutes were spent on a particular title and how that usage may have changed over the week.
Like Circle with Disney and Google’s newly released Family Link app, FreeTime allows parents to monitor their children’s screen time. But Parent Dashboard is designed to take things to a whole new level, according to Kurt Beidler, director of Kids & Family at Amazon.
“It’s not just about seeing what kids are doing in a superficial sense, but really being able to drill in and learn on a deeper level about each piece of content through our Discussion Cards feature,” Beidler says.”We’re very excited about the engagement that we hope this will bring between kids and parents.”
Written by Amazon content editors, Discussion Cards offers short summaries of the books, videos, educational apps and games that kids are using in Amazon FreeTime. It also has suggested questions and family activities designed to encourage more dinner-table conversations.
For example, when clicking on National Geographic Readers: Cats vs. Dogs, questions like, “What’s the difference between a canine and a feline?” will appear. Parents are also given ideas for real-world experiences for families—like volunteering at a local animal shelter. Cards are already available for thousands of Amazon’s most popular titles, while additional ones will be added daily.
“If you ask kids about what they’re reading, you get shrugs or one-word answers,” says Beidler. “The theory is that if you can ask more informed or open-ended questions, you might actually get a more involved answer. So we’ve come up with these cards.”
Beyond discussion questions, Beidler says Amazon is trying to better engage parents with the content their kids are enjoying.
“FreeTime Unlimited and Amazon’s Fire Tablet Kids Edition have allowed children to easily exist separately from adults,” Beidler says. “With these devices, kids don’t need help from adults. They’re so simple and so interactive that even a pretty young child can read, watch and play with things on their own. We want to bring parents and kids back together.”
To that end, Beidler says he’s hoping the dashboard will be particularly useful to parents once the holidays roll around.
“You don’t necessarily always know which books or toys kids are into. So maybe you have a birthday coming up, or it’s Christmas, and you want to buy gifts for them. Knowing what a child is really having fun with, without having to ask them directly, is a powerful thing,” Beidler says.