As Amazon, Google and Apple expand their smart home assistant lines and the general public become more accepting of having these devices in their homes, concerns are arising among parents about how to teach their kids about this emerging technology.
As the most curious humans, kids are always excited to try and test new devices that show up in their lives, and as a voice-command product, smart home speakers seem to be the most intuitive interface that kids have seen yet. Once they know how to talk, they can access the smart home assistants. They don’t need to learn any new skills, like swiping on tablets.
Many are happy to see devices that help discourage and reduce “screen time.” This new generation of technology instead helps encourage personal interaction. So, we’re making progress! The fears of parents, however, include thoughts about how kids are learning social skills that might not translate to the real world (or at least, shouldn’t translate to the real world). If children start to think that making voice command inquiries is the normal way to talk to people, we’re in for a very rude future.
While the technology is too new to have any real studies that show the impact on children and society, there is a way to curb any negative impact, and it starts at home with the parents. Here are a few tips on how parents can work with their children to help them understand how to use smart home speakers, how to use AI, and how AI interaction differs from human interaction.
Use online videos.
Online videos can teach us how to do so, so, so many things. That includes using a smart home speaker. You can watch branded videos with your kids that explain what the smart speaker is and how it works. You can also find user videos that show other kids and adults using smart speakers (but you should screen the videos first!).
Use the speaker.
Kids can learn through doing. Use the speaker with them so that they know how it works. Walk them through “good” and “bad” inquiries and make sure they know the “wake word” for the device. Let them experiment a little bit, since you are there to stop anything that goes array, so that they get it out of their system.
Teach them which skills to use.
Smart home speakers can be confusing, since there are so many skills you can access and specific ways you need to submit your inquiry. If they know how to access the skills they like the most, there is less room for them to accidently trigger something you don’t want them to access.
There are also a few things you can do to minimize and monitor the interaction that children have with smart speakers. Check into parental control options and how to activate those, sign in to the activity log to see how the speaker is being used, and once in a while, consider turning off the speaker’s microphone to limit access.
Before you consider teaching your kids about smart speakers, maybe we should all take a step back and think, is home automation even good for kids?