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Amazon's Parent Dashboard helps track kids' digital diets

The new, free service provides more information for parents using the FreeTime app.

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Hard at work at the Strawberry Shortcake beauty salon.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

My 4-year-old daughter often nabs my wife's iPhone and disappears for hours into the YouTube Kids app. We intermittently check on what she's watching, but it's hard to keep track of every video.

Since lots of parents deal with this issue, Amazon decided to roll out a new way to check on your kid's digital diet. It's a service for its FreeTime kids' apps, called Parent Dashboard.

The dashboard, which is free to use starting Wednesday and can be accessed from any web browser at parents.amazon.com, provides daily activity reports on each of your accounts on FreeTime, an app that provides a gated, age-appropriate experience for kids on Amazon Fire tablets. The new website also offers handy flash cards on many kids' books and games, to give parents quickly digestible information on the items their kids are looking at in the app.

"I would love to see parents engaging more with their kids, using this information to further customize their child's experience in [FreeTime] to make the product better for kids," said Kurt Beidler, Amazon's kids and family director.

Parent Dashboard fits well in the online retailer's strategy of catering to parents and families, in hopes of getting mom, dad and the kids all hooked on the company's many websites and services. The new service could also entice more people to join FreeTime Unlimited, the paid version of FreeTime that offers curated sets of books, apps and games for specific age groups, starting at $3 a month.

Screenshots of the dashboard (left) and a "discussion card" (right).

Amazon

The daily reports in the dashboard show colorful pie charts for time spent in four categories in FreeTime: books, video, apps and games. Click on any pie chart and the site will show the amount of time your kid spent per day in that category, as well as a breakdown of every video watched or book read or game played. Within these lists, parents can click through to flash cards, which Amazon calls "discussion cards," that offer a quick synopsis of the show viewed or app used, as well as general questions parents can ask their kids.

For instance, for the Strawberry Shortcake Berry Beauty Salon app, the discussion card tells me my daughter can help "style hair, clothing and make sure nails are sparkling," and I can ask open-ended questions like "What part of this game do you like the most?" or "How did you use your imagination to play this game?"

At best, these reports and flash cards could help parents get more involved in their kids' digital worlds and encourage their kids to do more reading and less gaming. At worst, the daily reports could just offer guilty reminders of how much time their kids spend watching videos (OK, maybe that's just my kids).

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