hold your horses.
Dot Echo Kids Edition started shipping this week, but
children’s advocates and others are asking parents to
hold off on buying the $79 version of the company’s
market-leading smart home speaker. Like the Echo, the
Dot Echo Kids Edition is voice-activated and powered by
Alexa, the Amazon virtual assistant at the beck and call
of millions of Echo users. Some uses: Kids can ask the
devices to play music for them, and parents can use the
devices as intercoms to call the kids for dinner.
some groups are worried about how the brightly colored
devices — which come with a subscription for access to
FreeTime, whose offerings include children’s content
such as books (Alexa can read to them) and apps — will
affect children’s well-being and privacy.
wants kids to be dependent on its data-gathering device
from the moment they wake up until they go to bed at
night," said Josh Golin, executive director for
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, in a statement
Dot Kids is designed to encourage children to give up
their personal information so it can drive even more
revenues for the e-commerce colossus," said Jeff
Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital
Democracy, in a statement.
Thursday, a couple of lawmakers sent a letter to Amazon
echoing similar concerns.
Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Joe Barton,
R-Texas, addressed questions to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
and asked for a response by June 1.
Amazon spokeswoman said Friday the company has received
the legislators’ letter and will address each of their
questions — some of which she answered in an email to
this news organization.
example, Markey and Barton asked whether the Echo Dot
Kids Edition records children and whether parents can
delete those recordings.
can access all their children’s voice recordings in
the Alexa app, and delete them individually or all at
once, which also deletes them from the Amazon
server," the Amazon spokeswoman said.
also addressed the congressmen’s and child advocacy
groups’ concerns about marketing to kids: "FreeTime
on Alexa voice recordings are only used for delivering
and improving the Alexa voice service and FreeTime
service — they are not used for advertising or
Amazon.com product recommendations."
said the Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime service
comply with COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy
Protection Act. Amazon’s privacy policies about its
Alexa and its Alexa-powered devices can be found here.
widespread concerns about tech addiction, some experts
voiced questions about child-development issues.
worry about the unintended consequences of the world of
an always-on, artificial device being marketed
specifically for parents to ensconce their child
within," said Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician
who’s a board member at CCFC.
said the Echo Dot Kids Edition can only be activated
with the "wake" word, and has a mute button
that disconnects the microphone: "This is by
hardware design: no power equals no audio in."