Are Siri & Alexa the new homework helpers?

Siri is no longer the only voice-assisted technology aiding us in our lives today. In fact, there are many more which you may already know of, but unsurprisingly children are finding new and innovative ways to incorporate them into their lives.

Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant are the virtual assistants that can be accessed from smart speakers such as Google Home or Amazon’s Echo with young children and teens talking to them daily but these are not the only smart products on the market. Others include: 

  • Wearables: smartwatches and smart sneakers.
  • Home assistants: Google Home, the Echo, and Siri.
  • Smart appliances: washing machines, refrigerators, coffeemakers.
  • Connected home products: electrical outlets, lightbulbs, thermostats.

‘From providing information, advice and help to being a source of entertainment, (voice-assisted technology) is becoming an increasingly present feature in children and young people’s lives,’ says the CEO of Childnet International, Will Gardner. 

Childnet research [2018] found that the ‘most common reason overall for young people to use voice-assisted technology is to:

  • find out information (92%) 
  • ask funny questions (90%)
  • play music (73%) 
  • get advice or help (73%)

Student responses in the study shows how virtual assistants are helping them with their school work:

‘I used Siri to help with my homework, I asked about certain facts I needed to know, I think it’s a good educational tool.’ Girl, 14

‘When I got stuck on some work I got forgot the maths formula to find an area of a triangle so I asked my Google Assistant what it was and it replied with the answer which was helpful as I didn’t need to get my textbook and look for the answer or search it on the internet.’ Girl, 13

More recently, Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey have published a report  [2019] about the unexpected reasons children aged 2-8 are interacting with Siri or Alexa using smart speakers and voice assistants. Over 40% of the 1,127 parents surveyed reported that their family was using smart speakers with playing music [47%] being the most popular activity followed by getting information.

43% said that their older children are using voice-activated assistants to help them with their homework.

But privacy is a real concern for many parents about how their information is used and whether or not someone is listening.

The concerns raised include the lack of transparency about the type of data smart devices collect and the way in which their children’s information is tracked, collected and used which can be a potential risk to their privacy. Companies claim that they need this data to make their products work better but it can be used for targeted advertising or sold to other companies. 

While parents can set up user profiles for their children which offers some degree of protection, the devices do not differentiate between data collected from adults and data collected from kids.

 

Young people also cite privacy, how information about them could be given away and reliability of information as ways in which voice-assisted technology can be improved.

For further information about smart devices and advice on how to manage them, Common Sense Media has published the Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Smart Devices.

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