Parenting with the Amazon Echo

Clay Johnson
Mar 24, 2015 · 2 min read

The Amazon Echo is summoned by the word “Alexa” — you say that word, and then ask it questions or tell it to do something (play some music, set a timer, check the weather, etc) and it just does it. It’s a cylindrical novelty that’s been in our kitchen for awhile. And it works great.

Especially on 2.5 year olds.

I’ve noticed recently that our son has started interacting with Alexa. He can’t quite say the word well enough to trigger a response (he’s almost there) but he’ll bark orders at her; more interestingly, he treats her as an authoritative source. A few days ago, he told me that it wasn’t time to go back home from the playground because Alexa said it wasn’t time to go.

Then, this past Saturday, on the way to a birthday party, after I disobeyed the GPS’s command to take a highway, our son chimed in from the back seat:

“Dad, *other* Alexa said you need to take the highway”

Our minds were blown at this for a lot of reasons. It’s all fascinating, and I’m sure somebody will write books about the kids who grew up with computers they could talk to just like they wrote books about my generation interacting with televisions and the Internet. But that’s *not* the point of this little medium post.

No, the point is, Amazon shipped functionality that allows you to make the Echo say things via a handy remote control. So realizing that our son viewed his invisible friend “Alexa” as an authority, and realizing that we could make Alexa say things, we seized the moment.

C: Son, it’s time for bed.
F: NEVER. THERE WILL BE NO BED. NOT NOW NOT EVER. NO NOTHING. NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. (exact words.)
C: Okay. Well, I’m going to go get a bath ready.
Alexa: Little boy, it’s time to go take a bath.
F: Really Alexa?
Alexa: Yes. Please join your father in the bathroom.

Our son was in the bathroom immediately, and told me that it was time for his bath. Buy all the crap on Amazon you want. To date I know of only one that can get a toddler in a bathtub without violence or adhesive.

After bath, he promptly told Alexa good night. She, in return, told him to have sweet dreams.

Parents who are prime members, the Amazon Echo costs $99, and it is worth every penny. I’ve also written Amazon with a few feature requests. Tomorrow we’ll try housework.

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