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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Parental Controls for the Kindle Fire

Update 9/12/2012: The new Kindle Fire will include Kindle FreeTime - a personalized tablet experience just for kids. Set daily screen limits, and give access to appropriate content for each child. Free on every Kindle Fire. Note that this is not a complete Parental Controls solution as it does not support filtered Web browsing. 

Many parents have been concerned about
Parental Controls on the Kindle Fire. This is not a single issue with a single solution. Some of the concerns are not unique to the Kindle Fire but also apply to other devices that have Internet access.

The Kindle Fire Update Revision 6.3.1 in May 2012 improved the Parental Controls to password-protect purchases, disable access to specific content libraries, and block access to the Silk web browser.


The free Kids Place with Child Lock app provides even more flexibility than the new Kindle Fire Parental Controls, including allowing access to individual Apps and blocking access to change the Quick Settings. See 
Limiting Access to Apps below.

Let’s first review the main concerns:


1)   It's too easy for children (and me!) to "accidentally" order Content or Apps using 1-Click ordering.

2)   
Parental Controls on Movies and Books

3)  
Limiting Access to Apps

4)   Lack of Privacy: The Carousel on the Home screen remembers the last Apps used and the last webpage visited.

5)   Parental Controls for the Internet

What can be done about these concerns? Let’s see what can and can’t be done:

1)   1-Click ordering:
With Revision 6.3.1 you can enable Parental Controls and password-protect purchases. You can also password protect WiFi (which disables all Internet access) or lock the unit with a password. Any of these “solutions” limits the use of the device.

Password protecting WiFi turns Off wireless access to the Internet but would allow children to read books that you download for them. You may also be able to play some games that do not require a live Internet connection. Some of the ad-supported Apps require a live connection to run.

Locking the unit is not a bad idea if you don’t want anyone else to use your Kindle Fire, view your data, or order content from Amazon. This also protects you if the unit is lost or stolen but you have to enter a password every time you want to use it, even after Screen timeouts.

Disable Mobile 1-Click ordering for Kindle Fire through your account on the Amazon website (if this feature is available). After you sign in to your Amazon account, select Your Account and under Account Settings select 1-Click settings and Turn Off Mobile 1-Click ordering for Kindle Fire.

This is a new feature that I wasn't aware of. After you turn it Off, the selection box disappears and I don't see how you turn it back On. I was able to install a free App after this so I don't know if Mobile 1-Click ordering for Kindle Fire is really turned Off. Amazon may be experimenting with this feature.

Disabling Mobile 1-Click ordering would be a good feature but requiring a password for purchases may be better for Users who want to be able to use 1-Click ordering and have protection from accidental purchases.

Some users have suggested using a Gift Card instead of a Credit Card to limit the dollar amount of 1-Click purchases through the Kindle Fire. This doesn’t eliminate the problem and you probably have more recourse with a Credit Card.

Note under Amazon's 
Conditions of Use at Help > Privacy, Security & Accessibility > Conditions of Use > Your Account: "Amazon does sell products for children, but it sells them to adults, who can purchase with a credit card or other permitted payment method. If you are under 18, you may use Amazon.com only with involvement of a parent or guardian."

See my post about Kindle Fire Complaints for more information about accidental 1-Click purchases and Disable 1-Click Ordering on the Kindle Fire for a method that I used to remove the credit card from 1-Click Settings.

2)    Parental Controls on Movies and Books:
This also applies to the Amazon website. You can sign out of your Amazon account on the website but not from the Kindle Fire, it’s always logged in to Amazon. Online Streaming Video Services like Netflix have optional Parental Controls to set the Maturity Restriction and Netflix also has an optional PIN for purchases. With Revision 6.3.1, you can now disable access to specific content libraries.

3)   Limiting Access to Apps:
The Kindle Fire Parental Controls settings allow you to block ALL apps but not individual apps. There is also no way to disable the Quick Settings app with the Parental Controls and someone could reset the device to factory defaults and de-register the device.

The Kid’s Place – With Child Lock App is free from the Amazon Appstore for Android and is compatible with the Kindle Fire. The custom launcher will display only parent-authorized apps. The Child Lock feature protects your data and the Toddler Lock setting enforces locking for apps launched from Kids Place. Another feature locks Kids Place after specified amount of time. Parents can control how much time kids can spend on Kids Place. Other settings let you disable WiFi while the Kids Place app is running.


Kid’s Place may be a good solution for families with young children. Older children may need access to the Internet for some social media sites and for school assignments. See Parental Controls for the Internet below.

4)   Lack of Privacy:
You can remove items from the Carousel by holding the icon and selecting Remove from Carousel. You can also delete recent webpages from appearing in the Carousel (and in the Browser History) by clearing the History in the Silk browser. A password can be used to lock the Kindle Fire by selecting Quick Settings > Security > Lock Screen Password > ON and entering a password.

5)   Parental Controls for the Internet:
I consider this to be the most serious problem for the Kindle Fire (and other mobile devices). With Revision 6.3.1you can enable Parental Controls and block access to the Silk web browser You can also password protect WiFi (which disables all Internet access) or lock the unit with a password.

Many parents are naive about the extent of the problem of inappropriate content that is easily accessible online. 
There is no single solution to protect your family on the Internet. K9 Web Protection has a free Android version of its popular filtering software that works on the Kindle Fire. (see Update below)

If you don't have a good Web Filter app installed on the Kindle Fire, you may want to consider using K9 Safe Search online Search Engine (powered by Yahoo!). Unfortunately, there is currently no way to make it the default Search Engine on the Kindle Fire or to delete the three built-in Search Engines from the Kindle Fire. The major problem with Search Engines is the inability to ensure that the SafeSearch level stays locked to Moderate or Strict. It can be easily defeated if Cookies are deleted.

You could block Search Engines with your wireless router and then (probably) use K9 Safe Search from its webpage. Save the K9 Safe Search webpage by adding it to Favorites from the Carousel and as a Favorite in the Amazon Silk browser. This will give you two ways to select K9 Safe Search when you want to use it. Blocking websites with your router would affect all the devices in your house that have Internet access.

Another option that has been suggested as a “solution” is
Open DNS Family Shield or an Open DNS account, both free. Open DNS Family Shield blocks access to "Adult" websites. It’s easy to change the DNS server IP addresses in your wireless router to protect all the devices in your home.

Open DNS
 Family Shield is only a partial solution though. It does not filter Search Engine results or prevent undesirable images from appearing in the Search results like K9 does. I highly recommend Open DNS Family Shield for minimum protection for a home network.

5/9/2012 Update: K9 Web Protection has an Android version of its free K9 Web Protection Browser for the Kindle Fire available for download at Installing on Kindle Fire. It's not available from the Amazon Appstore yet and must be "side loaded" into the KF.

Net Nanny announced that their Net Nanny for Android Internet filter was available for the Kindle Fire at the end of January 2012. Net Nanny Mobile installs a new Internet browser on your device. Other browsers are prevented from launching and the user surfs the Internet through the Net Nanny browser. Some of the reviews have not been favorable regarding its reliability in blocking objectionable content.

FEATURES INCLUDE:

Blocks 18+ Categories
Age-based Profiles
Safe search enforcement
Profanity masking
Whitelist/blacklist
Custom categories
Remote administration and reports

Prices start at about $20/year for one device and they offer a
Free Trial. You purchase and download the App from their website.

The Bottom Line:

There is no single solution to these issues. A combination of the Kindle Fire Parental Controls, the Kids Place app, Open DNS Family Shield, and the K9 Web Protection Browser may be needed.

Parental Controls
and the Kids Place app perform some of the same functions but Kids Place allows for more control of apps. Open DNS Family Shield and the K9 Web Protection Browser help to provide Internet Safety when Internet access is desired.

This post is a work in progress. I'll be updating it as I learn more about
Parental Controls for the Kindle Fire. Bookmark this page and check back for updates. You can Subscribe to RSS Feed for new Posts with the gReader App or Follow by Email subscription using the links on the sidebar.

See my complete list of Kindle Fire articles
.

Rev. 12/28/2012

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this information. This is very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is there any kind of app or program that would take profanity out of books you read on your kindle fire?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't want to say that it's impossible but it's not likely. Kindle eBooks and ePub books employ Digital Rights Management (DRM) that lock down the file. You could either avoid those books or use them as a teaching moment, as appropriate (IMHO).

    ReplyDelete