From reminding potty-training toddlers to go to the loo to telling bedtime stories and being used as a “conversation partner”, voice-activated smart devices are being used to help rear children almost from the day they are born.
But the rapid rise in voice assistants, including Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri could, researchers suggest, have a long-term impact on children’s social and cognitive development, specifically their empathy, compassion and critical thinking skills.
“The multiple impacts on children include inappropriate responses, impeding social development and hindering learning opportunities,” said Anmol Arora, co-author of an article published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
A key concern is that children attribute human characteristics and behavior to devices that are, said Arora, “essentially a list of trained words and sounds mashed together to make a sentence.”
The children anthropomorphise and then emulate the devices, copying their failure to alter their tone,