We love our Amazon Echo. Among other tasks, my four year old finds the knock knock jokes hilarious, the weather captivating, the ability to summon songs comparable to magic and Echo to be the best speller in the house. But I fear it’s also turning our daughter into a raging asshole. Because Alexa tolerates poor manners.
You see, the prompt command to activate the Echo is “Alexa…” not “Alexa, please.” And Alexa doesn’t require a ‘thank you’ before it’s ready to perform another task. Learning at a young age is often about repetitive norms and cause/effect. Cognitively I’m not sure a kid gets why you can boss Alexa around but not a person. At the very least, it creates patterns and reinforcement that so long as your diction is good, you can get what you want without niceties.
Our daughter’s fascination with the Echo isn’t an anomaly — I hear from lots of friends that their kids are the most enthusiastic users. Voice is a very natural interface for a child, especially pre-reading and writing. My friend Rebecca lovingly describes how the Echo has found a special place in their home.
So Amazon, you clearly have a hit on your hands. Can I request one thing? A kid-mode where the Echo only responds to “Alexa, please….” as opposed to just “Alexa.”