You’ll have to make some additional design considerations in skill that will be used by children. You’ll want to be careful to not overload the child with information and anticipate responses that are different from that of an adult. There are also additional policies to consider.
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View the design checklist for tips on how to improve your skill experience for children.
In this article:
For more information on implementation and policy guidelines for child-directed skills that allow in-skill purchasing, consult Child-Directed Alexa Skills and “Build Premium Experiences For Kids Skills in the US”
Skills for children under the age of 13 or skills that interact with any customer accounts for children follow different rules than regular skills. You can’t sell goods in child-directed skills or advertise to engage with content outside of the skill. You won’t be able to collect any information or perform account linking in your skill.
Children are still developing their language and verbal reasoning capabilities. Alexa can have a difficult time understanding mispronounced responses from children. Some children might also provide a non-sequitur or inappropriate response to a question from Alexa. They also use terminology to describe what they want that make perfect sense to them, but that us adults designing the skill won’t think of. Your skill needs to be ready for those responses and handle them appropriately.
Avoid disappointing experiences
Keep names (such as a character or place) very simple and easy to pronounce. When Alexa asks for a response, the child might not be able to pronounce it correctly. When Alexa can’t understand, this could be a frustrating and disappointing experience for a child.
Use child-friendly vocabulary
Children might not have familiarity with technology-laden terms. Keep the listening comprehension level as low as possible so that children don’t get frustrated with Alexa. Never require one specific utterance for children to engage with the skill.
If you have proper names or titles, make sure that Alexa accepts partial phrases and misinterpreted words that sound similar to the name. For example, if your character is named Elissa “Ee/liss/ah,” you might want to add mispronunciations like “Ee/lee/sah” or “E/wee/sah.”
Alexa: Want to keep playing your Math Monster game where we left off?
Alexa: You have an existing game in progress. Do you want to continue?
Similarly, children have difficulty enunciating similar sounding or rhyming words. Present children with distinct sounding options to choose from to make it easier for them to ask for the item and for Alexa to understand the request.
Alexa: We can visit the forest, or the castle. Which do you want?
Alexa: Do you want to visit the Fairy Forest or the Frost Fortress?
Anticipate that children form their own unique responsess
Children don’t easily remember commands or names, especially terms that are more than one or two words. They refer to familiar actions or themes with the words or concepts they know. Your skill dialog needs to be simple to remember but account for other ways that children might ask for the same thing.
For example, an adult might request, “Alexa, play the theme song from Frozen.” A child might request the song in a different way: “Alexa, I want the Elsa song please.”
Children often interrupt or answer questions immediately. They are active participants and won’t wait for Alexa to finish an extensive prompt. Use questions to cue that it’s the child’s turn to speak. Don’t ask a question in the middle of a paragraph of dialog and never ask rhetorical questions.
Alexa: That was fun! Now, you can hear a story about adventure, or about friendship. Which sounds better?
Alexa: That was fun wasn’t it? Do you want to hear stories about adventure or friendship? Which do you want?
Offer minimal options. Children often have a difficult time comprehending and choosing options from a long list. Don’t use more than two to three prompts for children. The name of the option should be no more than one to two words to keep comprehension of the prompt high.
Interpret when to help children. Children rarely invoke help or might feel embarrassed to ask Alexa to help them. Children might need a help cue from Alexa when they:
Children have very low discovery and recall of actions in a skill. You need to craft your welcome message and prompts accordingly. You might need to say the first-time welcome message multiple times before the child understands all the actions the skill can perform. Similarly, tell children in the exit message to come back to try new features or updates. For example, “Come back later to find all the treasures!”
Children prefer interaction to passive listening. They want to engage with Alexa and Alexa should provide a positive experience for children, even when they give incorrect answers. It’s always better to tell the child what was wrong in a positive way so they can be empowered to learn and grow.
Engagement is very important with children. It’s important to do things like keep score and provide encouraging phrases. For example, keeping track of how many times the child came back to the skill: “Wow! Back for practice five days in a row? You rock!”
Checklist for child-directed skill:
▢ Don't use formal, technical terms, or jargon
▢ Present simple choices in all your skill's prompts
▢ Don't require the child to say a single word or phrase exactly right to make the skill function
▢ Present options that are easy for children to understand and pronounce
▢ Using the skill should not require a high cognitive load; Make sure the experience is intellectually appropriate to your intended age range
▢ Allow children to select a “difficulty” level where it is important to differentiate their experience (such as learning-oriented skills)
▢ Don't rely on the Alexa app for children to use the skill
▢ Don't tell children how to manipulate app settings or parental controls
▢ Don't ask for personal information, such as location or age
▢ Be sure you check Amazon policies regarding child-directed skills