The Complete Guide to Amazon Echo Parental Controls
Great news! Not long after the roll-out of the Amazon Echo Kids Edition in early 2018, Amazon also rolled out its familiar FreeTime parental controls that you might recognize if you own an Amazon Kindle. Read more about FreeTime below!
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:
To enable FreeTime on any Echo device:
- Open the Alexa app on your iOS or Android device.
- Tap the three lines (looks like a sandwich) in the top left to expand the left menu and select Alexa Devices.
- Select one of the devices from the list.
- Scroll down and select FreeTime under General.
- Tap the toggle to the right of FreeTime.
- Select Setup Amazon FreeTime.
- Type in your child’s first name, select a gender, and enter the birthdate.
- Choose an icon and select Add Child.
- Tap Continue, then enter your Amazon password and tap Sign in. It may also ask you to confirm it’s you through two-factor authentication.
Once it’s enabled, you can disable FreeTime by returning to the app menu and simply tapping the toggle next to FreeTime.
Related support article: How to Use Free Time on Echo
Great! What else can I do with Amazon’s FreeTime?
Once FreeTime is enabled, you will be able to toggle different Alexa features on and off for the devices using FreeTime.
To do this, go to parents.amazon.com. Devices you have set up with FreeTime enabled will be listed. There, you can adjust the age filter, disable access to other “smart” devices in the home and manage what music services they can access. You can also disable Calling & Messaging, Drop In and Amazon Music, or block junk by enabling an explicit filter to block explicit songs or entire music services on that particular device.
If your child has a tendency to continue using the Alexa speaker after bedtime, you can pause the device for anywhere between one and 12 hours.
For those with screen time concerns, a helpful feature is Daily Time Limits, which lets you set a maximum allowed time for things like apps, Audible, reading books or watching videos. You can also monitor your kids’ usage and see call and message history.
If FreeTime is enabled, then kids will not have access to purchase premium content (a feature added in 2018). However, if FreeTime is not enabled, then kids could still purchase premium content. If the content is in the kid’s category, then a request via email or text will be sent to the account holder to approve or deny. If the account holder does not respond in 24 hours, then the request will be automatically canceled.
The video below explains how to set up Free Time on an Echo. Don’t miss it.
Related post: Screen Time. 5 Lessons for Parents and Educators.
We’re actually pretty impressed with what Amazon offers. If only Google knew families this well.
Amazon Echo FAQ:
Q: How do I change the “wake word” on my Echo?
A: 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).
Q: How do I prevent my child from ordering 1,000 pizzas from the Echo?
A: You can require a pin or disable voice ordering altogether. You can set a pin in the Echo app. Do this by opening your Alexa app on your Android or iPhone. Open the menu (upper left horizontal lines) -> “Alexa Account” -> “Voice Purchasing” -> toggle on “Voice Code” to set a 4-digit pin. Or you can turn the feature off completely “Settings” -> “Alexa Account” -> “Voice Purchasing” -> “Kids Skills Purchasing.”
Q: Can I stop explicit songs from playing on my Echo device?
A: Yes. In the Alexa app, select the menu (upper left on an iPhone) -> “Settings” -> “Music” under “Preferences” -> “Explicit Filter” -> then toggle on “Explicit Filter.”
Q: Can I connect my Echo to my Amazon Prime account?
A: Yes, which is awesome and potentially awful. If your Echo controls a smart TV for watching Amazon Video, you’ll want to set parental controls for Amazon Video.
Start from your logged-in Amazon account, click the three horizontal bars in the upper left -> “Prime Video” -> then “Prime Video” again -> “Settings” right under the Cart on the right -> click the “Parental Controls” tab, where you can set a 5-digit code for video purchases and other controls like ratings restrictions.
Q: Are there privacy concerns with Amazon Echo?
A: 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
Privacy features built in to the Echo as of May 2019.
- A microphone/camera off button
- Visual indicator that the microphone/camera is on
- Camera shutter to cover the camera but still be able to talk to Alexa
- Daily audio deletion: just say “Alexa, delete everything I said today.”
- Alexa Privacy Hub to inform you how the echo is built with your privacy in mind and the controls you have over your privacy
Q: How can I make my Amazon Echo as private as possible?
- Delete history. Open the Alexa app on your phone. Settings > History and delete one by one. Or go to Reivew Voice History in your Amazon account to delete all at once. June 2019 update: To delete everything said that day, simply say “Alexa, delete everything I said today.”
- Opt out of voice recordings. Companies use human transcriptionists to listen to users’ recordings in order to improve the voice recognition algorithm (see an article explaining that here). You can choose whether to allow this. Open the Alexa app. Alexa Account > Alexa Privacy > Manage how your data improves Alexa. Turn off Help Develop New Features and Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions. BUT You have to manually delete your voice recordings being held by the device even if humans aren’t reviewing them. This August 2019 article from The Verge explains how to do that.
- Audible alerts. This option will play a sound every time the device is ‘wakened.’ In the Alexa app, Settings > choose device > Sounds > Request Sounds. Turn on start and end of request.
- Mute button. The mute button should be on top. If you push it, then you know it isn’t listening to you 🙂
What other concerns should I have about the Echo?
Amazon is constantly adding new features to the echo, allowing it to interact in more of life’s everyday activities.
- 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. Keep this in mind when including/excluding music services in FreeTime.
- 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.
- Privacy (there is none) – the Echo is a chatty device. It’s constantly harvesting your activity for patterns and Amazon is using and selling that information. You’ve been monetized! The Ted Talk What Your Smart Devices Share (and know) About You is fascinating and frightening. Warning – if you watch it, please do so without the kids, as the Ted Talk mentions smart sex toys, too.
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.
Do we have an Echo? We sure do! It’s handy. It’s just worth being careful.
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