It happens now and then that a story about kids and Alexa or Google Assistant smart speakers makes the news. They often have a lighthearted tone but occasionally take a darker turn. Are smart speakers safe for kids?
The Internet at Their Request
Likely, you don’t give your kids full unrestricted access to the internet when they’re young. Logic dictates that you shouldn’t do that. Smart speakers don’t typically appeal to people as to other speakers.
There is not much difference between a smart speaker or smart display and a web browser. As opposed to using your keyboard, you use your voice to search. Google or Alexa reads the first result out loud instead of allowing you to browse through different results.
A 10-year-old girl did just that when she asked Alexa for a challenge. After she plugged the phone charger halfway into the outlet, Alexa told her to touch a penny to the exposed prongs. Wow.
Thank goodness the girl was smart enough not to do that, but it shows the risks involved. It’s just that Alexa read off a web search. Virtual assistants are not necessarily the all-knowing experts we believe them to be. Rather, they are simply the internet sounded out.
Are smart Speakers Safe for Kids: Privacy Concerns Regardless of Age
Many well-documented privacy concerns are associated with smart speakers and similar devices. Those concerns don’t just apply to adults, however. Smart speakers are assumed to listen to their conversations all the time. That’s technically true, but the process doesn’t work the way you imagine.
These smart assistants allow adults to set up their accounts and accept the privacy trade-offs. However, you are fully aware of what you are signing up for. On the other hand, kids don’t realize what they have “signed up” for.
Even before your child is old enough to use a computer, Google or Amazon can already build a profile of what your kid likes. Once your child has an account, it is easy for the companies to do so.
What Can You Do?
As you can see, smart speakers and displays aren’t the safest things for kids to use, but you can mitigate their risks with the tools you have at your disposal. Unfortunately, neither Google nor Amazon is perfect at this, but they’re at least trying.
There are a few parental controls available for Google Assistant-enabled devices. For example, kids can interact with the machines at certain times of day, and you can set content filters for videos, music, and more.
Kids-specific Echo devices are also available from Amazon that have parental controls. In addition, a standard Echo can be converted at any time after it is purchased to a “Kids Edition.”. If you’ve already invested in a couple of Echo devices, this is a wonderful way to extend the lifetime of your devices.
As a result, smart speakers serve as new access points to the internet’s vastness. If you let your kids use them, be aware of this.