Is the Amazon Kindle Suitable for Children?

I overcame all my reservations about e-Readers last winter and got myself an Amazon Kindle.  Since then, I have been reading it almost every day. Both of my older children have asked to use it, but one of the drawbacks of reading so many books on one device is that it can make it awkward to share them.  It is apparently possible to share books with other Kindles, but mine is the only one in our home.  Whenever one of my children wants to read a book on my device, and frequently more than one of them does, we have to implement a kind of Kindle time-share arrangement. This is not always very successful.

Now, my daughter is asking for a Kindle of her own.

I have had to think seriously about whether to agree to this.  There are some issues raised by the idea of a child owning a Kindle.  There are some advantages, but also some concerns.

One of the advantages of getting a kindle for a child is the access the device gives the user to the huge volume of great classic children’s novels that can be downloaded onto the device for free.  These include Huckleberry Finn, Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, The Wizard of Oz, The Enchanted Castle, 5 Children and It, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, The Children of the New Forest, The Coral Island, The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, Heidi, Little Women and What Katy Did.  Among the many classic novels that are available for free download to the Amazon Kindle are also many that are not aimed only at children but that older children may enjoy, such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre or Great Expectations.

Of course, I can download many of these books onto my own Kindle and lend the device to my children when they want to read it.  However, it does not seem to be possible to password-protect particular books on the Kindle.  As a result, a child borrowing an adult’s Kindle could, intentionally or otherwise, click on books that are not age-appropriate.  Not many parents would want their children to stumble upon their copy of 50 Shades of Grey, for example.

One concern that has been raised about the idea of buying an Amazon Kindle for a child is the potential damage it could do to their parents’ credit card balance.  When finishing a book in a particular series on the Kindle, it is often very easy to click on a link at the end of the book and buy the next in the series.  Amazon charges this to whatever credit card is linked to the account of the Kindle owner.  This is very useful when the user wishes to make the purchase, but it also makes it very easy to buy books by accident–or for a child to buy a Kindle book without realizing that it is costing their parents’ money.  This particular risk appears to have been overcome now, however.  The new password-protection feature that Amazon have introduced to the Kindle would seem to make it possible for parents to prevent children from accessing the Kindle store or connecting to the Internet without permission or supervision.

On balance, I think I will allow my child to get a Kindle.  One of the first things I will do, before I set the password to restrict access to the Internet, is to fill it with a huge library of classic works downloaded from sites such as the Gutenberg Project. There is a whole world of children’s literature out there, and for a child with an e-Reader such as the Kindle, it is available completely for free.

Safie Maken Finlay

(Safie Maken Finlay is a frequent contributor to the Swallows Nest Children’s Books Site.  She is also the author of the recently published children’s novel The Galian Spear. She can be contacted on Twitter @safiemfinlay.

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Click here to read a former sceptic’s views on the Amazon Kindle.