IT HAPPENS TO every parent. Maybe you’re on the treadmill after work and realize that you’re singing the Chuggingtontheme song while running. Or you’re at a dinner party, engaging in fluid discourse on the world-building in Zootopia versus Kung Fu Panda. Your family has become a hive mind. Whatever media your children consume, you also consume—and not only is this not a bad thing, it is also probably a hallmark of responsible parenting.
The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is the affordable tablet that will provide the maximum amount of enjoyment to the most members in your family, which is something to consider if you have children of different ages using the same tablet, or if you, the parent, let yourself get snookered into watching one more episode of Little Baby Bum before bed.
The first difference that you will see between Amazon’s 7- and 8-inch tablets is the larger, clearer HD display. While your toddler might not notice, you and older children will appreciate that extra inch of color and clarity when watching movies or playing games. Minecraft (for older kids) and the Sago Mini games (for younger ones) were bright and immersive, and played without any noticeable lag time.
The second difference is the sound. Unlike the Fire 7 for Kids, the Fire 8 for Kids has two Dolby Atmos speakers, instead of one, and they are not largely obscured by the included puffy child-proof case. The difference in volume and clarity is immediate and shocking. Going from one to the other is like taking cotton balls out of your ears.
The third is the battery life. My run test of watching videos and surfing took a little over the advertised twelve hours to use the entire battery. But twelve hours of battery life is a looooong time, with curfews installed and each child profile—you can set two parents and up to four children per device—limited to one hour of tablet time per day. Three days of toddler usage and parent fiddling barely dented the battery life, which went down to a mere 76%.
Durable. Affordable. Plenty of content to please all ages, even those who are well over 12. Parental controls are strict, but easily adjusted (by the parent). Can easily monitor the usage of multiple kids.
Hard to smuggle in non-Amazon content. Camera isn’t very good.
And like the Fire 7 for Kids, the Fire 8 for Kids also offers the same two-year worry-free guarantee and a year’s free subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, the subscription platform that gives your child access to a spectacular array of age-appropriate books, games, apps and videos from ages three to twelve. For example, when I created a ten-year-old child profile, every Harry Potter book immediately showed up, as well as Tolkien’sThe Silmarillion and other classics like Tron. So I can guarantee that your child will be thrilled, as long as your child is also me.
Nannyware, Tear Out Your Hair
As with the Fire 7 Kids, however, my main gripe is with the parental controls. Most parents buy the kids editions for their ability to keep their children from running rampant through all the dark and seedy corners of the Internet. The controls are incredibly customizable by accessing settings on your parent profile. You can choose as many or as few restrictions on your child’s FreeTime profile as you like. You can block the camera, block in-app purchasing, and monitor your child’s usage via the FreeTime app on the parent profile or online.
The problem arises when you try to watch or play something that is not part of the Amazon universe. While FreeTime offers an amazing array of content, and you can access even more goodies if you have a Prime subscription—let’s be honest, if you’re looking at a Fire you probably already have one—fighting your way out of Amazon’s clutches is a struggle.
While younger children, and probably most adults, would be happy with Amazon’s content, older kids will want apps like YouTube Kids. It is possible to transfer a lot of things into the child’s FreeTime profile, but prepare to spend some time puzzling through the workarounds, especially if you make the seemingly reasonable assumption that parental controls don’t apply to the parent profiles. Get used to typing your parental password and PIN a lot of times as you install everything twice—first on your profile, then on theirs.
Also, downloading everything necessary to get the Google Play store up and running took up a significant proportion of the 26.57 GB of usable internal storage. If you have multiple children downloading movies and games, you will probably need to buy an SD card.
Finally, the camera is still not good. Pictures were fuzzy, which is even more noticeable on the larger screen. But it does have a mic, and grandparents on Skype probably won’t mind that that those tiny little faces aren’t as clear as they might otherwise be.
Even the strictest of parents has to admit that there is some basic injustice being done to our tiny people, who watch us check Twitter all day on our portable screens as we tell them, hey, play with this little wooden car. The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a useful compromise of a device—durable, enjoyable, and at $130, way cheaper than an iPad mini(Amazon is also fond of putting these on sale frequently, so check often for deals).