Amazon previewed its suite of new tools last week that allow developers to build kid skills with in-skill purchasing (ISP) for the U.S. Alexa Skills Store. Developers interested in creating kid skill programming with ISP can submit their ideas to Amazon for approval, according to the company's announcement.
Alexa app users can opt out of voice purchasing in kid skills, which will stop the voice discovery for premium kid skill content, per Amazon's announcement. Additionally, when a customer agrees to purchase, the account holder will receive an SMS or email to approve or decline a transaction within 24 hours.
As part of the preview, developers can use existing tools to create premium kid skills, but the company has introduced three new tools specifically for creating kid skills that keep the account holders' controls in mind, according to Amazon's statement.
Allowing outside developers onto Amazon's platform is yet another step in the company's efforts to captivate a younger market. The company introduced the Amazon Echo Dot for children, complete with a suite of kid-focused content, apps and skills, in April 2018.
Voice assistant usage has continued to grow, though it pales in comparison to other purchasing methods, accounting for less than 1% of e-commerce sales. Retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and Home Depot have adopted it readily, and split between Alexa and Google's voice assistant software.
As Amazon attempts to gain more market share in the voice assistant market, allowing children to use its platform hasn't commenced without scrutiny. Educators have questioned whether Amazon's software should be integrated into classrooms, and a court case filed in Seattle alleges that Amazon is recording kids without their permission as they use Alexa devices, thereby violating recording laws in at least eight states. Following its investigation into Amazon's practices, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), an advocacy group which is against child-targeted marketing, called its investigatory findings "deeply troubling."
"Amazon markets Echo Dot Kids as a device to educate and entertain kids, but the real purpose is to amass a treasure trove of sensitive data that it refuses to relinquish even when directed to by parents," Josh Golin, CCFC's Executive Director said in a statement. "COPPA makes clear that parents are the ones with the final say about what happens to their children's data, not Jeff Bezos. The FTC must hold Amazon accountable for blatantly violating children's privacy law and putting kids at risk."