It's no secret that kids love tablets, but the devices also can get them into trouble. By the time my daughter turned 3, she knew how to pull up "Sesame Street" clips on YouTube and scroll through photos of friends and relatives. Although that free entertainment was incredibly helpful at times, there also were times she managed to post old pictures to Facebook or watch an inappropriate movie.
Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle FreeTime gives parents an easy way to block grown-up content. Kindles aren't alone in offering parental controls, but FreeTime goes further with an optional subscription service. With that, you get thousands of kid-friendly books, games and videos for a monthly fee. The quality is mixed, but the service is hassle-free, safe and relatively cheap -- starting at $3 a month.
It works only with the 2012 and later models of the Kindle Fire.
All Kindle Fires come with Kindle FreeTime already installed. The app itself is free to use. Once opened, all content not placed in your child's FreeTime account is blocked. That means no access to Facebook, YouTube or Netflix, if you don't want your child to have it. You need a password to exit FreeTime.
You can also limit your child's screen time by having access shut off after a specified amount of time. You can even specify how much of a certain kind of media your child can view. For example, you can give a child unlimited access to books, while limiting video and app usage to 30 minutes each.
Different time limits can be set for weekdays and weekends, and "curfews" can be set to keep kids from playing games after bedtime.
You can also require kids to read or use educational apps for a certain amount of time before unlocking other content.
Again, the FreeTime app is free. Where you have to pay is to access Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited service.
Geared toward children ages 3 to 8, FreeTime Unlimited allows kids to download anything they want from its large library of kid-friendly apps, books and videos, largely without the help of an adult. It also suggests content that they might like based on what they've already downloaded. Parents get to walk away and not worry about what they're up to.
But the suggestions are based on what's already stored in your child's account. I wish the app did a better job at filtering content based on a child's age. My daughter, now 4, doesn't need to be watching Batman cartoons or playing "Plants vs. Zombies." (continued...)
© 2014 Associated Press/AP Online under contract with YellowBrix. All rights reserved.