Review by Michael Oryl on Sunday May 06, 2012.
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Amazon has released a new firmware update for its Kindle Fire tablet that adds new, and much needed, parental controls. The new update, called version 6.3.1, should be installed automatically on most Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, but users can always visit the Amazon support site for details on how to manually initate the update process.
Found in the Fire's Settings app, Parental Controls allows a parent to block or password protect most of the main functions of the Kindle Fire tablet as they see fit. For example, parents can require passwords for access to Amazon's purchasing functions in the Appstore or the Amazon Shopping app or require a password for access to Amazon's instant stream video. When a user tries to buy something when the lock is enabled, they are forced to enter the master parental control password that was set by the parent.
Other functions of the tablet can only be disabled completely. It is possible to block or allow any of the following parts of the Kindle Fire using parent controls: Web, Newsstand, Books, Music, Video, Docs, Apps. Those functions blocked will no longer be available, and will be grayed out in the main Kindle Fire screen. If a user tried to access a blocked feature, such as an application or a book, a popup would appear telling them that the function has been blocked, and they would be given the chance to cancel the request or go to the Parental Controls section of Settings to unblock as necessary.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to merely enter the password to bypass the block. Instead a parent would have to remove the block completely from the web browser, for example, and then remember to re-enable the block once he or she has finished with it. If Amazon had merely implemented the rest of the blocks the way it handles purchases, with a simple password request, the entire process would be a lot more useful and secure.
Regardless, the Kindle Fire now offers far more in terms of parental controls than any other tablet on the market - even if they are not perfectly implemented.