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Amazon Echo Is Magical. It’s Also Turning My Kid Into an Asshole.

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.

My 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…” It certainly is not, “Alexa, please.” Alexa is not required to offer a “thank you” before Echo is ready to perform another task, nor does Echo give my daughter that thoughtful acknowledgement, either.

Learning at a young age is often about repetitive norms and cause and 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 reinforcements that so long as your diction is good, you can get what you want without the niceties that carry people to greater accomplishment in almost any field. (I guess, not a prison guard job — but you get the point.)

Our daughter’s fascination with the Echo isn’t an anomaly. I hear from lots of friends that their kids are the most enthusiastic of users. A voice is a very natural interface for a child, especially for 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.”
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