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Child Directed Skills

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 products to 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. That makes designing for children more challenging but it can be a very rewarding experience. For information about policy guidelines for child-directed skills, see Child-Directed Alexa Skills

Speak with children on their terms

Children have underdeveloped language and reasoning capabilities. Alexa can have a difficult time understanding mispronounced responses from children. Some children might also act belligerent and provide a non-sequitur or inappropriate name to a response. Your skill needs to be ready for any odd response and handle it appropriately.

Avoid disappointing experiences

Keep names (such as a character or place) very simple and easy to pronounce. When Alexa asks for a name, the child might not be able to pronounce it correctly, answer in a different language, or give an inappropriate answer. 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.”

Do

Alexa: “Want to keep playing your Math Monster game where we left off?”

Don't

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.

Do

Alexa: “Do you want to visit the forest, or the castle?”

Don't

Alexa: “You can visit the Fairy Forest or the Frost Fortress. Which would you like?”

Anticipate that children form their own unique responses

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.”

Ask simple, direct questions

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.

Do

Alexa: “That was fun! Do you want to hear a story about adventure or friendship?”

Don't

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:

  • Are non-responsive to a prompt.
  • Provide the answer, “I don’t know,” “I don’t know what that is,” “I don’t know how to do that.”
  • Ask Alexa, “What are you talking about?”

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 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!”

Keep it positive and action-oriented

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!”

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