Sunday December 04, 2022

Are Smart Speakers Safe for Children?

Sharomka/Shutterstock.comEvery once in a while, a story involving kids and Alexa or Google Assistant smart speakers hits the news cycle. These stories are often lighthearted but sometimes they take a negative turn. Do we allow children to use smart speakers? The Internet at Their RequestIf your children are young, you probably don’t give them unlimited access to the internet. This makes perfect sense, and it’s the smartest thing to do. But, smart speakers are not often thought of in the same way as a web browser. Instead of typing a search term into a browser, you can use your voice to enter it. Instead of browsing through a few results, Google and Alexa read the first result out loud. That’s what happened with a 10-year-old girl who asked Alexa for a challenge. Alexa instructed her to connect her phone charger to about half of a wall outlet and then to touch a penny to the exposed prongs. Yikes.Advertisement
Although the young girl was smart enough to not do this, it does show the dangers. Alexa was simply repeating information from a search engine. Virtual assistants don’t have all the answers. It’s just the internet presented with a voice.Privacy Concerns Regardless of Ageaslysun/Shutterstock.comSmart speakers and similar devices have many well-documented privacy concerns. These concerns do not only concern adults. People believe that smart speakers are constantly listening to them. Although technically true, it’s not how you think. Adults can set up their own accounts and agree to the privacy compromises offered by these smart assistants. You understand what you are signing up for. Children, however, don’t know what they’re signing up for. Amazon and Google can build a profile about your child before they even have the ability to use a computer. It’s very easy for the companies to do this if you have already created an account for your child. However, there are tools that can be used to reduce the risk. Google Assistant-enabled devices can be controlled by parents. Amazon and Google could do better, but they have some options. You can restrict the time your children can interact with the devices, set up content filters, and limit how often they can access them. Amazon also offers “Kids Edition Echo” devices that have parental controls. You can convert a standard Echo to a “Kids Edition” at anytime after it’s purchased. This is great if your Echo devices are already in use. When you allow your children to access these devices, be mindful.
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as a News Editor at XDA Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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