Setting time limits offered in the new Kindle Fire Free Time parental controls is easy, but in my opinion it is all just window dressing for a much deeper problem with putting eReaders in the hands of kids. Sherry and I are debating whether or not to give my old Kindle (2nd Generation E Ink) to Riley as a 10th birthday present. This kids reads like no one I have ever met and we believe he would love the high tech way of accessing his favorite series.
So what’s the big deal?
A couple of months ago a parent asked me how to control search results when browsing the Kindle Store. And by the way, this question applies to all Kindle devies, eRaders for other devices like the iPad, or just searching within a computer browser. Her 11 yr old had saved money to buy her own Kindle Fire and was freely browsing for her favorite children’s books. When searching the Kindle store for “American Girl” which is a popular book series 11 yr old girls, the mom was shocked by some of the results her daughter was exposed to. As shown in the photo above, as of today the 12th result in the Kindle store for the search term “American Girl” is a very explicit/erotic eBook by the same name. It is certainly not appropriate for an 11 yr old by the standards of any parent that I know. So if the above image and the sub-title of “A Carnal Story” don’t give you a hint as to why, then I can assure you that the description would remove all doubt. I recommend that you spare yourself the trouble of looking this up and just trust me on this one. My answer to the parent was that she would most likely have to manage Kindle Store access if she wanted to protect her 11 yr old from being exposed to this type of content. And even doing that is near impossible on older devices and free Kindle readers like used on desktops and smart phones. The challenge that parents face with the Kindle Store is that there is no “safe search” feature or filtering by age. Many books including some of the American Girl books are not categorized by age even though it is widely known in parenting circles familiar with these books that they are targeted at early readers (3rd grade and up).
Initial reviews of Amazon’s Kindle Fire Free Time Parental Controls are pointing to a less than stellar answer to the above mentioned challenge. Parents should be careful with simply handing over any model of Kindle to a child without first giving careful consideration to how they will supervision the shopping for books in the Kindle Store.