Two high-tech biggees are receiving kudos – albeit somewhat tempered – for adding additional parental controls to their platforms in an attempt to help protect children from harmful media content.
The Parents Television Council applauds YouTube for announcing it will give parents the ability to choose every video and channel on its YouTube Kids app. Parents will essentially have three options: permit viewing of a collection of "trusted" channels, handpick the videos/channels presented to their children, or turn off the app's search function altogether.
PTC also credits Amazon for giving parents more control over its Echo speaker through its FreeTime setting – offering such things as a "parent dashboard" that logs everything the device has been used for (e.g., songs and audiobooks that were played), and the ability to set limits on how much Alexa can be used and to specify times when Alexa should be disabled.
PTC's Melissa Henson says while these are both positive developments, there's also a potential downside. On the one hand, she explains, there are legitimate concerns about privacy issues.
"When you give children more access to these kinds of electronics, what sort of information or data are these companies tracking with respect to our children when they're using these kinds of devices?" she wonders.
PTC president Tim Winter explains further. "... No matter what the tech companies do to help parents, there is a huge underlying concern about data mining and privacy matters, particularly as it concerns marketing technology as a whole and age-inappropriate content to children." He adds another concern: "By making the platforms 'safer' for younger children, tech companies are getting children hooked on digital media platforms at earlier ages."
Beyond those concerns, Henson says there's also the added cost for parents to take advantage of the Amazon features. An Echo Dot currently sells for less than $50 – but she points out that the "kid-specific" Echo Dot is almost $80.
"So there's now an added cost to protecting your children while they're consuming entertainment on these devices," she laments.
Henson contends tech companies shouldn't place an added financial burden on parents when it comes to implementing protective measures.