Anyone who has ‘talked’ to Siri, or Alexa or Google Home and Cortana knows how intriguing and addictive they are. From adults to children, we are completely engrossed with our smart devices who can seemingly communicate with us. This case is especially more pronounced in very young children, who actually treat these devices as a sibling. However, we also know the frustration we feel when these hi-tech helpers are unable to understand a question. Also, we do not say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ when we are using voice assistants, and nor do our children. So, are these artificially intelligent devices giving rise to a new generation of ill-mannered children? Let’s take a look whether it’s a myth or a fact:
Robotic siblings influencing children’s behavior
Kids love their new robotic friends/siblings. Millions of people have bought voice assistants to help them with household chores, such as turning off the lights, closing garage doors, fetching movie times, making coffee and order pizzas. Children are using these devices to solve arguments, to help them with their homework, and as a new form of entertainment. If all this is being done, then where actually is the problem?
Well, the problem is that children are forgetting their manners. The disembodied voices seem to be impacting our children’s behavior in a negative manner. Parents are in a dilemma, as the devices do pass on information, and make the children more inquisitive, but at the same time, they are also making them rude. This is because, when any request is made to any voice assistant, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is not required, and any bad behavior, such as shouting at the VA, is not corrected by the devices as parents are wont to do.
The tone of voice
It’s not just not using please and thank you, but it’s also the tone of voice. We are not really careful about the tone of voice when we give commands to our VAs. Children, who are great learners, pick up the subtle or not so subtle difference in our tone when we use the device. And if you are trying to teach children to talk respectfully to others, allowing them a lot of interaction with smart devices would not be a great idea. Many parents have noted their children speaking in a commanding and stern tone, which they definitely cannot use when talking to a human. But if they get into the habit of speaking in an ill-mannered way to voice assistants, it would be very difficult for parents to rectify this behavior. This certainly makes one ponder – will our children become rude little monsters, who have no idea how to talk to people?
How can you rectify this
As the manufacturers of these products have not as yet addressed this issue, you, as a parent have to be more watchful with your own behavior. You have to speak respectfully to your voice assistant so that your child can learn from you. According to etiquette experts, kids learn good manners from their polite parents. So, parents have to set the precedent of saying ‘thank you’, to the inanimate object in order to set a good example.
Children are frustrated when devices do not respond
The emotional intelligence of children may be harmed as they communicate more and more with a gadget, which has only facts, and not any kind of ‘intelligence’. Staring at a screen or multiple screens may not help children to respond in a socially acceptable manner with real people. Children tend to anthropomorphize the smart devices, which might make them emotionally dependent on a device that is not equipped to be emotional at all. As the voice assistants become a part of life, and are treated as family members, children find it hard not to treat them as real, and become frustrated and confused, leading to a difference in the way they interact with adults.
There might be many unintended consequences arising out of interaction with a machine, and bad manners could be one of them. So for now, parents have to be more vigilant and strict with their kids and continue to influence kids’ behavior, in order to raise well-adjusted and well-mannered children.