I believe that if you hear something once, it’s a rumor. Twice, it’s a coincidence. Three times? Well, that’s when it becomes a trend. And that was just the case over the holidays when I had three separate mom friends gush to me about Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet. Each one said they had a new iPad on their Christmas shopping list for kiddos, but when it came time to click “buy" … they just couldn’t pull the proverbial trigger.
Why? Because, well, kids are animals. And each of my friends was envisioning the pricey iPad being dropped in a puddle, coated in sticky fingerprints, or just plain old missing (only to be retrieved under the couch, in a hamper … or never actually found). While we love them to death, our beloved children cannot be trusted with expensive tech products.
And yet, we parents also acknowledge the valuable lessons derived from a tablet. And, if we’re being honest, the much-needed quiet time they can bring to the household. Enter: The Kids Edition Tablet. Priced at a reasonable $129 for the Fire HD 8 (with an eight-inch screen) and $99 for the Fire 7 (with a seven-inch screen), everything about the Amazon’s tablet is family-friendly. For one, it comes in either a pink, blue or yellow rubber case that is damn near indestructible. Believe me, if my three-, four- and five-year olds can spend a week rough housing it with nary a scratch or break … it’s as durable as can be. Second, each tablet comes with a 2-year worry-free guarantee that basically means if it breaks, Amazon will replace it, no questions asked. Done and done.
But let’s discuss what we really care about: content. Each tablet comes pre-loaded to your Amazon account and with a 1-year free subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which comprises 55,000 kid-friendly web sites and YouTube videos, and 15,000 books, apps and games. Everything offered under the subscription is filtered and curated by Amazon’s FreeTime team specifically for children and categorized by age, which you the parent can manage in the “smart filters” section under each child’s settings.
For my 3-year-old son’s profile, for instance, I’ve allowed him to have access to content appropriate for ages 2 to 4. My 5-old-daughter, however, can sample apps, books, games and videos curated for ages 4 to 6. And these aren’t random apps and books you’ve never heard of. From superhero stories you own the hard copies of to the Toca Hair Salon and Pet Doctor apps your kids are obsessed with, the library is chock full of the subjects they already know and love.
Let’s be honest, the iPad experience is nothing like this. Instead, parents have to research their own books/apps/videos and download (and pay for) them in the App and iTunes stores. There’s also a real lack of control on the iPad when it comes to the Internet and YouTube. Yes, there are apps that you can download to safeguard for you, but most are not free and don’t have great ratings.
Which is why the parental controls on the Kids Edition Tablet is the last major selling point for me. When creating your kiddo’s profile, you can customize the times when he or she is allowed to use the tablet (turn off by 8 p.m. and stay off until 7 a.m., for example). You can also establish a total screen time allotment — one hour, let’s say — and within that allotment you can set educational goals, such as 30 minutes of the hour must be spent reading or using educational videos and apps. Parents can also choose to enable or disable access to the Internet (even with the kid-curated sites, I get why some of us don’t want kids on there at all!) and the ability to purchase anything on Amazon (if given the opportunity my daughter would buy 100 headbands and 30 cases of maple syrup … so, yeah, disable that fast).
You know what all of these controls bring me? PEACE OF MIND. Every day after school my three “big” kids sit down at our kitchen table, have a snack and watch a show on our very old iPad that they really only use as a Netflix-viewing device. Recently, I was upstairs changing the baby’s diaper when I heard familiar music coming from the iPad that I couldn’t quite place. I came downstairs only to discover my two preschoolers and kindergartener watching The Killing. Yes, this is an excellent show that I spent a full month binge watching — but this is not a show for kids. And the fact that my 5-year-old had so easily found it and turned it on unnerved the sh-t out of me.
My point is, with the Kids Edition Tablet, there’s really no area where kids can get into trouble. They won’t stumble into your queue of adult murder shows, they won’t hop onto the world wide web without you noticing. It’s a controlled tablet environment that also doesn’t involve me spending hours curating content for them. Because no parent has time for that.
Another cool feature? You can remove any content that comes with FreeTime that you don’t want your kid interacting with. Like, say your son has an inexplicable fear of Pete the Cat — you can easily block all Pete the Cat titles and remove it all from his profile's library. In my case, I’m blocking Spongebob and highlighting (yep, this is another control feature I love) any content that focuses on letters, numbers, counting, and sight words.
The downside? There aren’t many, but I’d say that navigating between user profiles isn’t super intuitive and is something parents will likely have to step in and do for their kiddos. Also, my kids aren’t not at all into sharing this tablet, so it’s looking like I’ll have to buy two more — but, guess what? Two-packs are on sale for $149.98 right now, so I’ll still be able buy THREE Kids Edition Tablets for less than the cost of one iPad Mini4. I repeat: Three tablets for the price of one iPad. Yep, I made that decision for ya right there, didn’t I?
Shop the Kids Edition Tablet here:
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