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You Give a Kid a Kindle - Then What?

John Federico

My son loves to read, so my wife and I decided to get him a Kindle Touch for Christmas.

He recently turned nine and we think that he's responsible enough to care for an eReader - and what better way to demonstrate our confidence in him than to surprise him on Christmas day?

The problem that we had (as do many parents of young children) is the lack of parental controls on Kindle devices.

Kindles have gotten cheap enough that they can serve as suitable replacements for kid's books without breaking the bank (or a kid's back) but they're still designed with adults in mind: one-click purchases for books, games, apps, movies, music and audiobooks. (Sorry, Amazon, but that doesn't work in our house.)

So, I set about figuring out how to handle this with our son.

First I thought I would connect his Kindle to my Amazon account, then he and I would discuss the rules for making new book purchases: all purchase decisions would occur together, between him and me. The first time this rule was broken, the Kindle would get put away for awhile.

This sounds good in theory, but it definitely doesn't help us demonstrate our trust in him. (One-click purchases and kids just don't mix.) It also required that we share a Kindle library. Practically speaking, it's not ideal: his actions would be recorded as my actions and his purchase decisions would affect my Amazon Recommendations.

So, I thought I'd try a little experiment: does an Amazon account require a credit card? It turns out that it doesn't!

Amazon will let you have an account but prompt you for a credit card before each purchase. (But then keeps this card on file until you delete it.) Not a perfect solution, but better than the previous scenario.

The obvious downside to this approach is that I have to enter a credit card for each purchase, then delete it afterward so as to hamstring one-click purchases.

Then, I remembered that Kindle books can be given as gifts.

For parents who want to let their young kids use a Kindle, this is the solution:

  • Create a new Amazon account for your child (You'll need to enter a unique email address but luckily, Amazon doesn't ask about date of birth.)
  • Each time that you and your child determine that a purchase is appropriate, launch your Amazon account and find the book (or other digital media) that your child wants.
  • Under "Buy Now with One-Click" you'll see "Give as a Gift". Select that option.

  • Next, you'll need to enter the recipient's email address. If you have younger kids that don't regularly use email yet, be sure to select "Email the gift to me." (My son has an address, but he doesn't use it much.)

  • Login to your child's Amazon account and go to amazon.com/acceptgift. (I've been keeping my son's Amazon account open in iCab Mobile on my iPad and keeping a passcode on the app, so I don't have to continually login.)
  • Enter the redemption code that you received via email and the book will be added to your child's library.

That's it.

Your child will have their own Amazon digital media library without the sudden surprises that accompany one-click purchases. Plus, when they're old enough, they'll have an Amazon account they can call their own.