Do Kids Need Amazon's New Glow Gadget?

Interacting over video isn’t always best

Key Takeaways

  • Amazon has launched a new device that’s aimed at connecting kids and adults over video. 
  • The $250 Amazon Glow lets users play games or read books together. 
  • Some experts worry the Glow could encourage less physical interaction.
Two kids laying in the floor, interacting with an Amazon Glow.


Most kids have plenty of screen time, but Amazon is launching another device aimed at children. 

Amazon Glow is a new, interactive device aimed at families that allows kids to interact with remote loved ones and others over video calls. The gadget can project games, books, or puzzles onto a table that kids and friends or relatives can play together. However, physical interactions are best, experts say. 

"Using video chatting to stay in touch with distant family members, or as we saw during the early COVID crisis when we could not be around even friends and neighbors, is a real strength and help kids to stay connected," Megan Carolan of the Institute for Child Success told Lifewire in an email interview.

"But we would not want a situation where kids choose playing on a device with their friend down the street rather than playing in person with them."

Gaming for Kids

Amazon Glow consists of an 8-inch upright display, a camera with a built-in shutter, and a projector. The $250 device isn't available to the public yet and can only be purchased via invitation, since it's part of the company's Day 1 Editions program.

A young child interacting with an adult using the Amazon Glow.


The display projects a 19-inch interactive gaming space onto a 22-inch white silicone mat for the child. The Amazon Glow also has a video screen that shows the remote adult on the other end of the video call. 

More Screen Time?

Studies have shown that children benefit developmentally from physical interactions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour of screen time per day for children aged 2 to 5 years, and recommends high-quality programming.

Michelle Keldgord, the mother of two small children, told Lifewire in an email interview that it's not a good idea to replace physical interactions with virtual ones. "Kids need to experience things happening in person, whether it's playing superhero imagination games or hugging their loved ones," she added.

Being in front of electronics for too long can have adverse effects on her kids, Keldgord said. "For my son, it means his eyes will get blurry, and he might get a little cranky," she added. "My daughter exhibits uncharacteristic behavior such as not listening and being hyper."

An adult interacting a child using the Amazon Glow app on a small tablet.


Video call devices for kids can sometimes have positive effects, pediatrician Pierrette Mimi Poinsett told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"Video call devices can help maintain relationships when in-person interaction isn't feasible," she said. "Likewise, video calls can reduce isolation and loneliness for both the child and the adult."

Another Gadget

There's also the question of privacy. Amazon says that privacy and security are closely guarded with the Glow. Kids can call people on the parent's pre-approved list of contacts with the Amazon Parent dashboard. Parents and children also can disable the four microphones and close the camera shutter at any time. 

"It certainly seems that the Glow has been designed with these concerns in mind," Carolan said. "But as we have seen time and time again with children's technologies, someone will find a loophole or a back door issue that undermines those safety features, and so parents need to continue to be vigilant about how children use devices even if they think they have safety mechanisms in place."

Still, it's an open question whether kids will buy into the idea of playing games through a limited device like the Glow when many children already have access to full-featured tablets. 

"The selling point is that kids can also play virtual games, solve puzzles, and or read books with another person virtually," Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida, told Lifewire in an email interview.

"While setting up the video calls will be fairly easy for parents, then having to learn and explain how to do the interactive puzzles and games to both their children and their parents will probably be a frustration not worth the effort for most."

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