Amazon introduces kid-focused service

December 5, 2012

Tablet makers know that mom and dad aren’t the only tablet users in the house. As families amp up their gadget use, the industry’s major competitors are looking for ways to reach out to the younger set.

Nearly 70 percent of tablet owners with children under 12 allow their kids to use the devices for gaming, studying and entertainment, according to Nielsen. Nearly half of the kids use the devices to watch TV shows or movies, the study said.

Eyeing that market, and just in time for the holiday shopping season, Amazon announced an unlimited multimedia subscription service for kids 3 to 8 through its Kindle Fire tablet.

The service, called “Kindle Free Time Unlimited,” offers curated, kid-friendly movies, games and books. Kids control their own libraries and the buffet-style pricing prevents surprise charges on their parents’ bills. Parents with up to six kids pay around $10 per month for the service — prices can drop to as low as $2.99 per child per month if users subscribe to Amazon’s Prime service.

“Amazon knows how to get people to spend more money, even if it’s just a few dollars a month,” said James McQuivey, an analyst for Forrester Research. “By ensuring that a whole library of content is freely available, the hope is that parents will get addicted to the age-appropriate babysitter.”

Amazon isn’t the only gadget maker vying to sell the family tablet. Barnes & Noble’s Nook has been a hit with parents because of its wide catalogue of picture books and limited video selection. Apple can offer kid-focused films, thanks to the children’s section that Netflix recently added to its iPad app. But Amazon, which sells games, books and videos, can offer a wider variety of titles.

The service “gives kids the freedom to explore age-appropriate content on their own,” Peter Lar­sen, vice president of Amazon’s Kindle department, said in a statement.

To appeal to privacy-conscious parents, Amazon will not show advertisements or social media to kids using the service.

“It’s great that it will be an ad-free service,” said privacy advocate Jeffrey Chester, who runs the Center for Digital Democracy. But he’d like more information on Amazon’s data collection and use policies for the service. “We call on Amazon to make its service not just ad-free — but data-profiling free when it comes to kids,” Chester said.

Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment on how it will use data from FreeTime for marketing.

Related stories:

Amazon Prime: New monthly subscription option steps up rivalry with Netflix, Hulu

Netflix jumps after inking Disney deal

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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