Amazon’s Fire Tablet offers both parental controls for quickly locking down a device as well as fine-grained “child profiles”. These child (or teen) profiles use the Kindle FreeTime feature, which is perhaps the most sophisticated parental-control solution for a tablet operating system
Fire OS is actually quite compelling if you’re looking for powerful parental controls and child-friendly features. It’s here that Amazon’s hardware really stands out on more than just price.
Parental Controls vs. Child Profiles
You can lock down your device in one of two ways. There are parental controls, and there are child profiles that use Kindle FreeTime. Both are intended for locking down your device and restricting what your kids can do, but they take different approaches.
Parental Controls: Enable parental controls and the Fire table will block access to a variety of things — the web browser, email, contacts, calendars, social sharing, the camera, Amazon’s stores, purchases, video playback, different types of content, Wi-Fi settings, and location services. You can choose which of these you want to block.
This doesn’t require you to set up any other account. Effectively, it’s a restriction placed on the current account that can’t be removed unless you know the password. You can just activate parental controls, set a parental control password, and access to sensitive content can be restricted. You can then hand the tablet to a kid and let them use it as they wish.
Child Profiles: Rather than just activating parental controls, you can get more sophisticated controls by creating up to four “child profiles” or “teen profiles”. You’d create a different profile for each child who will use the device. These use Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime feature, and you can choose which apps, eBooks, and other content you want to share. You can also change a variety of other settings — for example, setting a “bed time” for each child after which they can’t use the tablet, setting limits on how much they can use the tablet for different purposes, or requiring them to use educational content before they can play games.
Enable Parental Controls
To activate parental controls, open the “Settings” app — swipe down from the top of the screen and tap “Settings.” Tap the “Parental controls” option under Personal. Activate the “Parental Controls” slider and you’ll be prompted to create a parental control password. This password is necessary for enabling, disabling, or configuring parental controls. You can change it from this screen later — assuming you know the current password.
Use the other options on the screen to control access to the web browser, email, contacts, calendars, social sharing, the camera, Amazon’s stores, videos, other types of content, Wi-Fi settings, and location services settings.
While parental controls are enabled, you’ll see a lock icon on the notification bar at the top of the screen. To disable them, pull down the notification shade at the top of the screen, tap the “Parental controls are enabled” option, and then enter your password.
You could leave parental controls enabled except when you want to use the tablet yourself, ensuring your kids can’t make purchases, mess with your email, watch age-inappropriate videos, or browse the web — depending on which options you choose.
Create Child Profiles
Open the Settings screen and tap “Profiles & Family Library” under Personal to create new profiles and manage existing ones. This uses your configured “Family” and works along with Kindle Family Sharing.
Tap the “Add a child profile” option and you’ll be able to add one or more profiles. A “child profile” will get a simplified, content-centric interface, while a “teen profile” will get Amazon’s standard Fire tablet interface.
You’ll be able to choose which content you want to share, and you can tap the child’s name later to add more controls. For example, you could set up daily time limits, choosing when the child is allowed to use the tablet and for how long they can do different things on it.
From the lock screen, you or anyone else with the tablet can tap the profile picture at the top-right corner of the screen and select a new user to switch users. You can also pull down the quick settings menu while signed in, tap the profile picture, and select a new user account.
To view information about how your child has been using the tablet, you can open the “FreeTime” app.
Amazon will likely continue adding new parental controls to Fire OS. It’s ahead of every other mobile operating system when it comes to kid-friendly features and parental controls. It’s especially ahead of Apple’s iOS, which still doesn’t offer multiple user accounts or profiles on a single iPad.