If you want to put a Kindle into the hands of a child – and want to figure out how to disable the Kindle network – to turn off the WhisperNet so that a child can’t turn it on, you’ve come to the right place.
We love our Kindles, and when I first got my hands on one, I thought “What an amazing device for a child who loves to read!” It satisfies the “cool device” factor, encourages their love of reading, and is so incredibly portable. Wouldn’t you rather see a child reading a book on a Kindle than wearing out their thumbs on a portable video game?
So you may imagine my disappointment – nay, dismay – to realize that it is not possible to disable the Internet network – Amazon WhisperNet – through which the Kindle and Amazon communicate. WhisperNet allows you to browse the Kindle store right from your Kindle, from just about anywhere, and order new books, and subscribe to newspapers, magazines, and blogs (and is what allows Amazon to deliver these things to you instantly). It also allows you to browse the Internet.
Now, unfettered access to the Internet is not something we advocate for children and, we think, with good reason. In fact, when I told a dear friend of mine – an Internet legend who actually wrote much of the software on which the Internet email system has run for most of the past two decades – that we don’t allow our child to access the Internet at all, unless supervised – he surprised me by saying that he wishes now that he had done that with his children.
The Internet is a dangerous place for children.
Anyways, back to the Kindle. I figured that there must be a setting on the Kindle to simply disable the network access – yes, there is an on/off switch on the back – but I figured that a device this sophisticated must also have, in its settings, the ability to turn the network on or off. And, I hoped, optimistically, that it would be password protected. After all, I couldn’t be the only parent who wanted to give their child a Kindle, could I? And I know that I’m not the only one who restricts their child’s Internet access. And what good is a portable book reader to a child if they can’t actually, you know, take it with them anywhere because they have to always use it under their parents’ watchful eye?
But, no, there is no way to disable the network – let alone a password protected way. Only that simple on and off switch in the back.
Now, let me state here – we trust our child. But not with unfettered Internet access – there is just too much really bad stuff there. Even searching on Amazon for something seemingly innocent can bring up all sorts of inappropriate results. And once they can search the entire Internet, all bets are off. After all, just because you trust your child doesn’t mean that you’d leave them alone in the driver’s seat of the family car, with the keys in the ignition and the car running, would you? So why would you think that letting them have unlimited unsupervised access to the Internet was ok?
Beyond that, let me tell you that before we childproofed the Kindle, our child had it at an outing with us, and one of their friends who was looking at it quickly made inapproriate use of the web surfing ability. We’re grateful that his parents weren’t upset with us.
So, it was clear that for our child to carry the Kindle around – to really get full use and enjoyment out of it – we needed to find a way to really disable the network and childproof it. In fact, after the incident with the friend, our child handed it to us and said that they didn’t want to have Internet access on it – could we please find a way to disable it.
Because there is no way to disable the network natively on the Kindle (are you listening, Amazon?), we had to find a workaround – a way to physically disable it. We thought about taking it apart, and removing the on/off switch – but, a) we were afraid of breaking it (not to mention voiding the warranty), and b) we want us to be able to turn it on and off easily, so that we can order new content to be delivered to our child’s Kindle for them.
What we finally worked out was that we needed to make the one/off switch in the back inaccessible to anybody but the parents. But how to do it?
We made a locking case for the Kindle.
And here is how we did it:
The first thing to do is find the case that you will use, and a tiny padlock. The case will either need to have a way to insert the small padlock to lock the case shut natively, or, as we did, you can have your local hardware shop install a grommet up near where the zipper pull-tab resides when the zipper is closed – then you can put the padlock through the zipper pull-tab and the grommet, to lock the zipper closed.
The best way to find the right case is to take your Kindle to the hardware store, and look at their accessory pouches. If you can’t find them at the hardware store, try the camping store.
Once your case is ready to accept a lock, assemble everything that you need. You will need the case that you are going to use, a piece of thin clear plastic film the same dimensions as the case, some very strong glue, strong cloth tape (3/4 to 1 inch wide), a utility knife, and a piece of cardboard for cutting against.
Now that you have everything, basically what you are going to do is cut a window in the case large enough to see the screen and keyboard through, bind it off with tape, and then cover the window with the plastic film, so that the screen is protected and the keyboard can be used through the plastic film.
Here is how we did it, with step-by-step pictures:
Start by measuring the screen, to know what size to cut the window into the case. Be sure to make it long enough that the keyboad can be accessed (but of course leave a small bit of the case material at the bottom – don’t go all the way down, or your case will not be very durable).
Now, cut your cardboard to roughly the same size as your Kindle:
..and slip the cardboard inside the case. This is so that when you cut the window out of the case, you won’t cut the other side of the case.
You will note that you have to coax the last edge of the case over the cardboard, because it will be a snug fit. This is good, as you don’t want the Kindle sliding around inside the case when you are typing on it!
Now, draw your guide lines, where you will cut to create the window, using the measurements that you made.
Cut along the guide lines to create your window – be careful not to press too hard and cut through the cardboard!
This next step is very important! Turn your case inside out!
Now take your cloth tape, and measure four lengths of it, one for each side of the window. Be sure to make each piece the length of the side of the window plus the width of the tape (so for 1 inch wide tape you will make the length of tape one inch longer than the side of the window) so that the tape overlaps itself at the corners of the window, to create a strong, unified ‘frame’.
Take each piece of tape, make a little slit in each end…
and stick the tape on the edge of the window, so that about half the tape is on the window, and half the tape is sticking into the window.
Now wrap the edge of the window, to bind it, by folding the tape over the edge of the window, and pressing it firmly along both the inside and outside of the window edge.
Repeat for all four sides of the window.
Guess what! You’re almost done!
Now measure and cut the film – it should be the the same dimensions as the window including the window’s taped edges!
Now take your glue, and put glue along the edges of the window, on the tape:
Roll the film up, and starting at one edge of the window, carefully unroll it, letting the edges adhere to the glue, and keeping it as smooth and unwrinkled as possible (don’t worry if it’s not perfect, it will work just fine):
Now comes the hardest part of all (and you really are almost done!) – let the case sit, just as it is, inside out, for 24 hours to allow all of the glue to set completely!
While you are waiting, go to Amazon and load your child’s Kindle up with these great children’s Kindle books from Amazon!
Don’t forget to slide that network switch on the back to the “off” position!
Now, carefully turn the case right-side out, and slip your Kindle into the case, zip it up, lock it, and voila! A child-proofed Kindle! As a bonus, we attached a carrying strap, so that our child can strap their Kindle across their shoulder, and also not worry about dropping it when using it (which they really appreciate). And of course it protects the Kindle – never a bad idea when giving an expensive device to a child, no matter how responsible the child.
For extra measure, you can put a piece of that cloth tape over the on/off network switch on the back, while it is in the off position. Just to make sure that none of your child’s friends decide to see if they can manipulate the switch through the case.
You also may want to cut a small slit in the bottom of the case to allow charging while the Kindle is in the case. We also cut a tiny hole in the plastic film right where the thumb-wheel is, to accommodate the wheel.
While this may seem like a lot of work to childproof your Kindle, we assure you that it takes longer to read than to actually do – it’s pretty easy. And the hours of reading joy your child will get from their child-safe Kindle will make your heart do a little happy dance.[Don’t have a Kindle yet? You can get a Kindle here.]
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