February 21

AI, Smart Speakers & Kids: What You Need to Know


Important Things To Know About Kids And AI Devices

Artificial Intelligence is becoming much more common in the home. Take smart speakers, for example. Approximately 20 percent of households in the U.S. already own a smart speaker, as Statista reports. The most common ones include Amazon Echo, which is powered by Alexa, and Google Home. These devices are becoming more tailored to kids. They can play kids’ favorite songs, answer their questions about the world, and even help kids with their homework. But what are the risks involved?

You Don’t Engage With Your Kids

It might seem like a healthier idea to leave your kids with a smart speaker who can answer their questions about the world than with the TV, but this should never be done for long periods of time. Nothing compares to having quality time with your kid. In addition, if your children are spending time alone with these speakers, they could run into trouble.

Kids Might Make Unauthorized Purchases

The problem with kids using smart speakers is that the speakers are not solely designed for children. They have many adult uses. For example, smart speakers come with voice purchasing options. Google Home, for instance, merely requires that you add a payment method in the app and then you can place orders for items by asking Google Assistant for them. Now, imagine if your child gets a hold of it!

That’s what happened with a young girl in Texas, as CBS reports. The six-year-old was having a conversation with Alexa via Amazon’s Echo Dot about how she loved dollhouses and cookies, and ended up purchasing a four-pound order of cookies and a dollhouse costing $160. Since then, the family has set up a PIN code that has to be used before purchases via the speaker can be completed.

If you’re going to use a smart speaker in your home, it’s essential to change your settings so that your child can’t accidentally or intentionally buy things without your consent.

Kids Might Be Exposed To Harmful Content

Parental controls are a must to set up on these devices, as it’s really easy for kids to end up getting exposed to things that aren’t suitable for them. But there are still some loopholes. An example can be seen with music. A music app such as Spotify doesn’t have the ability to block certain songs that are age-inappropriate via smart speakers, as Southern Phone explains.

Smart Speakers & Kids | Daphyl's Iconic Baby Gear

Smart Speakers Could Violate Your Privacy

The devices work by listening to your commands. They then record and upload what you say to the cloud. This is done to learn more about you so that the service can be tailored to your needs. But the process is troubling when it comes to issues such as privacy.

Since the devices are obviously tracking what you’re doing online as well as your conversations, they’re doing the same thing with your kids. The apps do have privacy settings, such as giving you the option of turning off the microphone, but as Common Sense Media states, the microphone comes back on when you ask for it which is a bit strange considering it wasn’t supposed to be listening to you!

Smart Speakers Get Info About Your Kids

Since you’ll have to set up a profile on the apps for your kid so that the devices will recognize his/her voice, you’re giving the companies a lot of information about your children, and this could include things you’d prefer to keep private. “The companies encrypt that data, and they don’t store it forever,” Common Sense Media explains. “But having that information “in the cloud” means it potentially could be used by third parties to whom you haven’t specifically given consent.”

This knowledge accumulation by the device is also worrying when you consider how children view the devices. A study that was published in the American Psychological Association found that when children interacted with a robot, they stated that they thought the device had feelings and was a social being. Some kids even felt that it could offer them comfort and be trusted with their secrets.

Kids Can Lack Social Skills

Talking to a device can make children battle to learn social skills. For example, Alexa doesn’t respond to tone, so if a child screams out a command or demands something rudely, he/she will receive a response. AI devices are trying to change that, though. For example, Google Home has a “Pretty Please” mode which requires children to say “thank you” or “please” in order to receive responses, and they’re rewarded for being polite with compliments. This can encourage children to learn not to be rude.

There are some benefits to letting your children use AI devices, such as that they can teach children about the world and entertain them. However, there are clearly quite a few issues to consider before you purchase one for your home.

Sources: Statista, Common Sense Media, American Psychological Association, Southern Phone, CBS

Editor’s Note: Giulia Simolo is a freelance content provider & writer for Daphyl’s LLC. Daphyl’s is a USA based multi-national world leader in safe, innovative, Licensed Rock N Roll, branded baby gear. The opinions, advice and assertions made in this article are for entertainment and information purposes only & are solely those of the author.


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