Karen Ressmeyer started at Amazon in June of 1998 as the company's third in-house attorney. At that time, Amazon offered only two retail categories: physical books and music CDs. Last year, Karen joined the Amazon Kids organization to lead its new Family Trust team. Recently, we connected with Karen to talk to her about her new role and team, the transition from lawyering, and how Amazon Kids has helped families through the pandemic.
Q: You spent nearly 22 years as an Amazon attorney. Why did you decide to take on a new business role on the Amazon Kids team?
Quite simply, I was drawn to the Amazon Kids business. Although I'm nearly an empty nester now, when my kids were young, I wrestled with the issue of technology in their lives. The decisions were very personal. I found my approach often differed from the approach taken by the families of my kids' closest friends. I love the products Amazon Kids creates because they empower parents to choose how they want their kids to interact with technology—whether it's to entertain, educate, inspire, or connect.
As for my new role, I'm pleasantly surprised by how relevant my legal background has been to my Family Trust role. These days, families care deeply about privacy and security, especially when it comes to their children, and these are areas I specialized in as an Amazon lawyer. In fact, I was the first Amazon attorney to work on developing our understanding and compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act way back in 2000, when the law first went into effect. I have a strong understanding of privacy compliance, which is certainly a significant component of trust. But building trust with families includes more than legal compliance.
Q: Tell me more. What else does earning the trust of families include?
A lot. Earning trust requires that we work backwards from the perspective of kids and the grown-ups in their lives. Let me share a few of the most important things we think about. In addition to privacy and security, we're thoughtful about content appropriateness and online safety for kids. In fact, all content included in the Amazon Kids+ subscription is curated by a team of kids content experts. This gives grown-ups the opportunity to step back while their kids independently explore our products. We also think a lot about the diversity of our content. We want every child to be able to see themselves, and to learn about others, when interacting with content in Amazon Kids+. In addition, we focus on transparency, clearly explaining to grown-ups what features do and what choices they have. This starts with the product experience and continues as their children grow up. Finally, we offer a variety of choices and controls in our Parent Dashboard. These let grown-ups customize each child's experience and review each child's activities across devices. We recognize families place incredible trust in us when they bring our products into their homes and let their kids interact with them. We don't take that for granted. Building and maintaining the trust of families are top priorities.
Q: What exactly does the Family Trust team do?
Even though everyone's job at Amazon is to focus on the customer, Family Trust's responsibility is to focus specifically on earning the trust of kids and the grown-ups in their lives. When Amazon Kids develops products, Family Trust sits at the table and voices the concerns of kids and parents. We're able to have impact on how our products take shape.
In addition to me, long-time online trust and safety expert Catherine Teitelbaum joined the Family Trust team last year. We're similar in that she's also an internet pioneer and brings a wealth of experience in kids trust and safety to Amazon. Most recently, she was the Head of Trust & Safety at our affiliate Twitch. So, between the two of us, we literally have decades of experience across privacy and online trust and safety, and we bring those perspectives to the team.
Q: I understand the Family Trust team was formed during the early stages of the pandemic. Tell me about that and how the pandemic has impacted the Amazon Kids business?
You're correct. Family Trust started last April, during the early weeks of the pandemic and just after we started working from home. This means I haven't met most of my new teammates in person! Beyond the virtual workplace, the pandemic has had other impacts on the Amazon Kids business. Because the pandemic has forced everyone, including kids, online for work, school, entertainment, and socializing, we've seen that parents' attitudes about kids and the time they spend on their devices have shifted. Instead of focusing on the amount of screen time, families and experts now recognize that not all screen time is the same. Reading an e-Book, streaming a video, playing a mobile game, or talking to friends online are very different experiences. The conversation is more nuanced now, and I think that's a good thing. Certainly, we've seen increased engagement since the start of the pandemic.
Q: What great things does Amazon Kids have planned for families this year?
Our content team is producing some great original content that I'm super excited about. And of course, we're always innovating with our devices and the experiences that kids and parents have with them. Stay tuned.