Online playgrounds from Netflix, Amazon, and Apple give kids room to be themselves, without straying too far.
Twelve-year-olds are not welcome on Facebook. The social network could allow children if it wanted, but federal law requires commercial websites to "obtain verifiable parental consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children."
Rather than deal with the hassle and expense of collecting permission slips from millions of parents, Facebook decided to simply ban anyone under the age of 13.
But a lot of websites have chosen a different path. Amazon, Netflix, and Apple's iTunes – three services ostensibly designed for adults and their credit cards – have created separate online playgrounds for kids. Here's a quick guide to how they work.
Kindle FreeTime Unlimited: Amazon set up special junior accounts for Kindle Fire owners. The service unlocks a trove of books, movies, TV shows, and applications that are appropriate for children ages 3 to 8.
Amazon designed the plan to give children a sense of independence. Each child may set up a personalized account with unlimited access to the Kindle FreeTime library. Parents pay a monthly fee of $5 per child or $10 for the whole family. (Amazon Prime subscribers pay a few dollars less.)
While kids can read and watch whatever they want, parents may limit the amount of screen time. For example, you could restrict your son to only one hour of video-watching a day but let him read for as long as he wants.
Each second-generation Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD comes with the FreeTime app installed. The app is not available on first-generation Kindle Fire tablets.
Netflix Just for Kids: When Netflix started building its Web video empire, the company cut deals with movie studios and TV networks to stream just about everything it could get its hands on. Last year, the strategy changed. Netflix spent 2013 refining its catalog. That means letting some contracts lapse, but still loading up on quality dramas and children's shows.