Smart voice assistants for dumber children

From the “things that should leave NOBODY speechless” department…

Smart voice assistants for dumber children /img/baby-and-alexa.jpg

In case you missed, here are some totally unsurprising discoveries about parenting (stay with me on this…)

If you make children learn to speak from a machine, they will speak like a machine.

If you make children learn to speak from a machine that doesn’t ever expect “please” or “thank you”, they will not learn good manners.

If you make children learn to speak with a machine that’s only capable of answering to some types of questions, “children are going to be learning very narrow forms of questioning and always in the form of a demand."

Those who should speak to babies and children much more than anybody else in their very first years are probably… their parents.

Obviousness! Or science?

Everything written above will hopefully seem nothing more than good old common sense, and of the most obvious variety too.

However, just in case you missed it, some researchers just shared concerns that “devices such as Alexa could have a long-term impact on empathy, compassion and critical thinking skills”.

Equally obvious is the fact that “as long as parents keep to the recommended limits for children, and [children get a healthy amount of interaction from their caregivers and peers…there should be no cause for alarm”

On the other hand, once you consider that:

  • modern life doesn’t exactly make easy to “give children a healthy amount of interactions”
  • there already are strong pressures to use “every year fewer and fewer words”
  • so far, the people who design these devices know how adults use them, not children

maybe it isn’t a bad idea to read the whole article, and think about it.

Image source: “Got a Newborn? How Amazon Alexa Can Make Life Easier”, PCMag, 2018