‘Alexa, play my kid a podcast.’ Parents look for screen-time alternatives

Amazon's Alexa is usually laughing at users along with also creeping them out

To get through a grueling seven hour car trip with her toddler, Haley Jude decided to try something different.

Instead of playing a kids’ TV show on her smartphone, she turned on “The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian,” a serial podcast about an 8-year-old boy who solves mysteries in space.

“I can’t stand watching kid shows with her, although I can definitely get into some of the kid music or stories podcasts,” Jude said. “There are such cool podcasts for kids these days.”

With all the warnings about the negative impact of screen time on children’s weight, sleep patterns, along with also brain development, some parents are drawn to podcasts along with also smart speakers because they seem healthier.

Thanks to a boom in kid-friendly podcasts along with also easy-to-use smart speakers like the Echo along with also Google Home, they’ve got plenty of content to choose coming from.

Audio-based options range coming from educational to rock. The free “Stories Podcast” by startup Wondery features retellings of classic tales, such as Snow White along with also the Pied Piper, along with also original stories for kids. On NPR’s “Wow within the planet,” hosts tackle fun scientific mysteries like, “What is usually a sea pickle?”

within the podcast “Dream Big,” second grader Eva Karpman along with also her mom interview athletes, artists, scientists along with also philosophers. Meanwhile, “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child” is usually a music podcast of kid-friendly tunes of which won’t drive parents crazy.

Related: Amazon’s brand-new plan aims to get teens hooked

Seattle-based attorney along with also parent Heather Kelly — no relation to me — lets her children, ages 2 along with also 5, have up to an hour of screen time twice a week. although during the afternoons along with also on car rides, Kelly prefers podcasts like “Sparkle Stories” or an audiobook.

“My kids enjoy screen time more because they get to see some of their favorite characters, who they’re partial to, although a podcast is usually not a hard sell at all,” Kelly said.

Smart assistants add an interactive layer to audio content. The Sesame Street audio app uses sound hints for a game of hide-along with also-go-seek with Elmo. Disney’s Cars Adventure app lets kids give Lightning McQueen turn-by-turn directions in a race. (along with also of course, kids can just request their favorite songs, over along with also over.)

screentime audio alexa

Amazon says kids’ audio-apps are the fastest growing category of which works with its voice assistant Alexa. The retail giant has hundreds of kid-focused voice applications available within the US, along with also recently held a contest for developers to build brand-new apps for children. The winning app, Kids Court, lets children settle arguments in an Alexa-run court while learning about the law.

“Kids can be doing something with their hands [while listening to audio], such as playing or coloring, along with also be productive,” said Dan Hinds, creator of the Stories Podcast along with also a parent himself. “In general, of which’s a more thoughtful experience.”

Listening can also be a middle ground between screen time along with also going fully analog.

Nick Newell, a tech worker along with also dad within the San Francisco Bay area, uses his Amazon Echo to help manage his 5-year-old son’s screen time, asking Alexa to turn the TV off or set timers.

“Somehow Alexa gets more respect along with also has more control of my kind’s actions than my wife along with also I when of which comes to screen time,” says Newell.

They use Amazon Music along with also Spotify to replace Disney movies with soundtracks: “More often than not, getting away coming from the TV means turning on the music, dancing, along with also butchering the lyrics to a Disney favorite.”

Dr. Jenny Radesky, who helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for screen time, thinks there may be advantages to audio content although is usually skeptical of smart speakers. The guidelines include recommendations for holding off on screen time until 18 months of age, along with also not using media as a way to calm children.

She says listening to podcasts or books is usually likely a not bad way to encourage shared media time for family members, which helps kids better comprehend information. She says to avoid letting smart speaker activity displace the kinds of family bonding routines of which build social along with also emotional connections, like reading a book at bedtime or talking over dinner.

Related: Early iPhone designer calls on Apple to curb tech addiction

Psychologist along with also author Catherine Steiner-Adair worries about parents using technology of any kind as a crutch.

“When you let technology become the de-facto parent like reading stories or setting a timer for your child, you are truly deleting some of the most important — along with also sometimes boring — parenting rituals of which create a truly important foundation for your child,” said Steiner-Adair, who wrote the book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood along with also Family Relationships within the Digital Age.”

She recommends only listening to audiobooks of things kids have already read, doing sure programs along with also stories are not too fast paced, along with also sticking with narrators who use a more natural voice.

As with screen time devices, parents should consider how comfortable they are with their children using a service of which collect user data.

Kids can speak to Alexa or Google Assistant anytime, although the companies have added some additional options for parents of users under 13. Both platforms let you create profiles for individual users along with also turn on some parental controls. along with also parents must consent to having Amazon along with also Google collect data coming from kids before using children’s apps.

Adva Levin, the developer behind the Kids Court app, says children have a different way of interacting with voice assistants along with also often don’t need stories or games to happily interact with smart devices along with also assistants.

“When you introduce them to kids, they started out asking her a lot of personal questions: ‘Alexa, will you be my friend? Alexa, how tall are you?,'” Levin said. “They know of which’s not real, although there’s a truly not bad suspension of disbelief with kids.”

CNNMoney (San Francisco) First published April 12, 2018: 3:49 PM ET

Source : ‘Alexa, play my kid a podcast.’ Parents look for screen-time alternatives