Amazon's Parent Dashboard aims to help parents interact with kids in the digital age

The new feature is free for all Amazon FreeTime users.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer

Amazon on Wednesday announced Parent Dashboard, a tool that piggybacks off of its FreeTime service for limiting and monitoring what your child is doing on one of the company's Kindle Fire tablets.

The dashboard displays each child you have added to your Amazon FreeTime account, revealing how much time has been spent in four different categories: Books, Videos, Apps, and Web.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Each circular chart acts as a button, showing time spent reading specific books, using an app, or watching a video.

At face value, the Parent Dashboard is rather basic. Its primary purpose is to provide insight on just what your child is doing on his or her device.

The Dashboard idea is similar to what Google does within its Family Link app, breaking down how much time is spent on a device, and using which app.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Previously, Amazon FreeTime users were able to set limits for specific activities but had no way to tell how the child spent his or her allotted time.

What sets Parent Dashboard apart from a monitoring service, like the aforementioned Google Family Link or Disney's Circle, is what Amazon calls Discussion Cards.

As you drill down into the Parent Dashboard, viewing the book by book or app by app breakdown of what your child has been doing, small orange conversation bubbles appear next to some titles.

Tapping on that icon will reveal a synopsis, along with questions you can ask your child about the book, app, video, or website.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

For example, my 9-year-old daughter briefly read part of The Mermaid's Mirror By L. K. Madigan on a Kindle Fire Tablet. The Discussion Card for that book provides questions such as "What is Lena's relationship with mermaids? How does is grow as the book progresses?" and "When have you learned something new about yourself or your family? How did it impact you?"

Either question is a welcomed alternative to the standard "How is your book?" inquiry. Naturally, the result is often the short answer of "good."

For a game, such as Nickelodeon's Blaze and the Monster Machines, there are five questions available designed to spark a conversation about the game. However, there's also a suggestion of how to get involved with my child and the game itself -- outside of the app.

In this instance, the Discussion Card suggests: "Look around the house with your child and help them identify different objects or things that require any one of the STEM categories for existing. For example, baking a cake requires math with measurements of ingredients or how a computer requires engineering to build."

STEM is a core concept used and taught during gameplay, and Amazon's suggestion brings digital lessons in the physical world.

As a parent, I can appreciate what Amazon is doing with Discussion Cards. I've often spent hours -- quite literally -- Googling games or videos to gain perspective on just what it is my kids are watching or playing. Not only to ensure it is safe for them but so that I can talk with the three of them about something that sparks their interest.

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