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Amazon Echo

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Company Website: Amazon Echo with Alexa

**Breaking news!

As of May 9, 2018, Amazon is rolling out new parental controls for their Echo devices. Just go to the Echo app to enable FREE TIME, which is something parents might recognize from Amazon Kindle devices. With privacy concerns on the rise, Amazon seems to be listening.

According to Market Watch:

“Parents will be able to apply the controls to particular Echo speakers from inside the Alexa app. They can set a bedtime, after which Alexa won’t carry out any requests. They can turn off voice purchasing and filter explicit lyrics from Amazon Music. They can approve certain skills (Alexa apps) for the device — yes, SAT Word of the Day; no, Mr. Bartender. (No transaction-associated skills, such as Uber or Domino’s, are allowed.) And while the household intercom function still works, children can’t send messages or make calls to destinations outside the home.”

Related support article: How to Use Free Time on Echo

Amazon Echo Introduction:

Amazon Echo is a brand of smart speakers developed by Amazon. The devices connect to the voice-controlled, intelligent, personal assistant service, which responds to the name “Alexa”. The Echo “wake word” can be changed by the user to “Amazon”, “Echo,” or “Computer”.

Amazon Echo Parental Controls:

Amazon Echo Set-up Step 1: Set up OpenDNS on your home’s router (this is necessary in order to filter web content, since the Echo doesn’t have a content filter of its own, yet it obviously does connect to the Internet).

Amazon Echo Step 2: There are some parental controls on the Echo, but there are a few steps parents can take to prevent their kids from buying 1,000 pizzas. Read this short article from USA Today. Additionally, don’t miss the breaking news paragraph above and enable Amazon’s FREE TIME feature to further control access for your children.

If you want to change the Echo “wake word,” read this article. Unfortunately, you can’t change it to whatever you want (maybe a future feature).

Amazon Echo Step 3: Chances are, if you have an Echo, you also have Amazon Prime and enjoy its movies. You’ll want to set up the parental controls in Amazon Prime following this video:

Are There Privacy Concerns with Amazon Echo?

Absolutely. Every command is gathering intel about you and the people in your home. For this reason, make sure there are separate profiles set up for just the adults in your home and limit interaction with the Echo to the adults only. This article explains how to create voice profiles:

Related article: Amazon – How to Create an Echo Voice Profile

Would you like to delete everything that Amazon has on you and your family? This article from USA Today explain how you can do that.

Related article: How to Find all of Your Amazon Data and Delete it

What Other Concerns Should I have About the Echo?

Because it’s Amazon, and their goal is to give you as much access to as much content and goods as possible, it’s really easy for a child to find inappropriate content, like:

  • Spotify – inappropriate music. So far, there are no parental controls on Spotify to exclude songs with explicit lyrics. But, Google Music, Pandora, and Amazon Prime Music, do.
  • Ordering 1,000 pizzas – as explained in the USA Today article above, in the Alexa app, you can turn off voice purchases altogether, or at a minimum, require a pin.
  • Social development – if there are young kids in the house, parents need to make sure that their children understand how to interact with humans before they become accustomed to interacting with AI.

The overall message here is that nothing is better than human-to-human interaction. The Echo runs the risk of replacing basic interactions. Does anyone remember being terrified of picking up the phone to call Little Caesar’s Pizza to order for their first sleepover? I do! And, since I got good at it, I was the perpetual pizza ordering-dude at sleepovers. This was a good thing. I knew how to interact with people and this skill has served me well. So, now that Amazon is offering an Echo for kids, with kid-friendly features, please just be careful.

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