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Parents urged to think twice about buying Amazon Echo Dot for kids

Levi Sumagaysay, The Mercury News on

Published in Parenting News

Alexa, hold your horses.

Amazon Dot Echo Kids Edition started shipping this week, but children's advocates and others are asking parents to hold off on buying the $79 version of the company's market-leading smart home speaker. Like the Echo, the Dot Echo Kids Edition is voice-activated and powered by Alexa, the Amazon virtual assistant at the beck and call of millions of Echo users. Some uses: Kids can ask the devices to play music for them, and parents can use the devices as intercoms to call the kids for dinner.

But some groups are worried about how the brightly colored devices -- which come with a subscription for access to FreeTime, whose offerings include children's content such as books (Alexa can read to them) and apps -- will affect children's well-being and privacy.

"Amazon wants kids to be dependent on its data-gathering device from the moment they wake up until they go to bed at night," said Josh Golin, executive director for Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, in a statement Friday.

"Echo Dot Kids is designed to encourage children to give up their personal information so it can drive even more revenues for the e-commerce colossus," said Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, in a statement.

Also Thursday, a couple of lawmakers sent a letter to Amazon echoing similar concerns.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, addressed questions to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and asked for a response by June 1.

An Amazon spokeswoman said Friday the company has received the legislators' letter and will address each of their questions -- some of which she answered in an email to this news organization.

For example, Markey and Barton asked whether the Echo Dot Kids Edition records children and whether parents can delete those recordings.

Yes and yes.

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