This week, Amazon announced the forthcoming availability of the new Echo Dot 'for Kids' together with its complementary parental support tools and content services. These latest developments to the Alexa smart speaker family are said to be driven by a market-led requirement to develop this 'Kids Tech' category. This calculated manoeuvre is being heralded by the industry as the firm's bid to become the smart speaker brand of choice in the home.
"Amazon has already got a clear head start in terms of category development; its installed base which began at 28 million units at the start of the year can benefit from the additional parental control or content services for kids," commented Rasika D'Souza, Senior Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting, citing figures from the Futuresource's recent Worldwide Voice Assistant Report.
When it comes to technology and connectivity in the home entertainment space, network security, privacy and screen-time are certainly topics that are of paramount importance. Whilst kids may not be the main buyers in the home, they are certainly enjoying digital entertainment content and using connected hardware, including the home's smart speaker. This was clearly evident in the latest 'Kids Tech' consumer study from Futuresource that monitors the tech habits of kids aged 3-16 years in the UK, France, Germany, US, China, South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil.
"For Amazon's key markets, the UK and US, the top activity for usage of smart speakers amongst kids is listening to music - 60% of children who use one do so for this activity," commented Amisha Chauhan, Research Analyst at Futuresource Consulting. "The number of activities used on smart speakers increases with age, while for 3-4-year-old users, the smart speaker is mainly used for listening to music, for 13-16-year olds the range of activities grows. 69% of users in this age group still listen to music but 33% listen to audio books, 26% fact-check and 22% play games," added Chauhan.
With so many connected devices available to kids, parents are becoming savvier in their methods for controlling this access. Futuresource's 'Kids Tech' study found that although 53% of parents allow their child to use the internet unsupervised, 60% also have parental controls in place to restrict internet access. These controls are more prominent in Asian countries, where on average 73% of parents restrict access, compared to 51% in European territories. Across ages, restrictions on internet decrease from 67% for 3-4-year olds, down to 49% for 13-16-year olds.
Stepping away from the more prescribed conversations about controlling viewing and screen time, the general consensus is that smart speaker customers are extremely happy with the benefits that this little tech device brings to the home. Toni Reid, Amazon's Vice President of Alexa Customer Experience, stated at the event that the firm were, "excited and a little bit surprised," by the response to Alexa, especially from families and kids.
This is also echoed in a recent consumer study Futuresource conducted for a well-known audio brand about the use of voice-activated speakers. Futuresource focused on the US and UK markets, where 2017 shipments combined accounted for 98% globally.
In terms of practical application and entertainment, the study found that music was the leading application by some margin with audio books, quizzes/games and joke-telling being cited as additional benefits. When discussing family dynamics, voice assistants are seen as being a talking point in the home. Half of owners in the USA felt that they help families and friends to bond, engage and socially interact in the home. Almost three-quarters of owners in the US and over half in the UK indicate that having a smart speaker brings an element of fun, leisure and amusement to their everyday lives. Furthermore, with the time saved from using a voice assistant to help with daily chores, over half of owners in the USA are spending their 'reclaimed' time to socialise with family and friends online or over the phone. Likewise, almost one-fifth of users in the UK are using this time to spend with people at home.
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