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Technology and Children
We have been hearing and reading for decades about how enlisting the assistance of the TV as a baby sitter for children has had a huge impact on kids. It’s good we are not watching so much TV anymore because we now have our interactive gadgets with us.
AI powered assistants like Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri, are able to answer all our question and assist us many ways.One might argue that interactive technology is much better than passive TV watching. This might be just another conjecture only. Do we know how these virtual assistants impact our children?
One study from Northwestern University, found that 37 percent of parents reported handing their child a smartphone or tablet when they were busy with chores or making dinner, and 17 percent of parents reported allowing a child to play with a smartphone or tablet to calm them down.
The Need To Understand The Impact of Virtual Assistants On Children
It is predicted that by the year 2021 virtual assistants will out number humans. Even in the current scenario most homes have at least one virtual assistant of some sort. This is just the beginning.
Children are bored so often and need new activity, which leaves parents with no 'me time'. Being a mother there were days I would just long for a 5-minute soak in the bath tub instead of a quick shower. With the likes of Alexa and Siri around it is possible for us to could relax a little more and let them become our children’s nannies at will.
The Effects of Virtual Assistants On Children
Our children can be amused by these virtual assistants all day long when they are bored. Alexa has even released Echo Dot kid to cater to the needs of our children. Amazon promises that ‘the device offers safe, fun experiences for kids’ and “peace of mind” for parents.
Really? Do we know how these gadgets could impact the young minds? Perhaps it will do us good to know what we are getting into before we jump head long into it. Let us begin by asking some pertinent questions.
You could rightly ask how can Alexa be bad for my kids when it teaches them skills and provides them with all the information they would ever need?
“These two skills—creative initiative and distress tolerance—are incredibly important in life success, but may become harder for children to develop if they become accustomed to immediate boredom relief through a virtual assistant or other device.” - Dr. Jenny Radesky
How Learning Through Virtual Assistants Is Different?
Agreed virtual assistants make learning easier. They provide all the answers to their never-ending questions of the child and feed his/her curiosity. Virtual assistants could be their teacher, clear all doubts and may be even amuse and entertain children with jokes and music.
When a virtual assistant talks to us, answers all our doubts we tend to tend to think it as a buddy. For a child the line between the real and the virtual could soon fade and he/she may not know the difference between the real and the virtual, that could the difference between safety and danger.
"What do we do if a kid starts saying Look, I appreciate the parents in my house, because they put me on the map, biologically. But dad tells a lot of lame dad jokes. And mom is kind of a helicopter parent. And I really prefer the knowledge, wisdom, and insight given to me by my devices." I asks John Heavens IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems
A child learns form what he/she hears and sees. Your child looks up to you and considers you as the source of all knowledge, you are his/her first and only teacher.
Let us consider this example what happens when your child first goes to school. When he/she goes to school everything changes, his teacher becomes his/her final authority. You are no more his/her source of knowledge.
In the current scenario Alexa could possible take precedence over what you as a parent have to say. The virtual assistant could become your child’s teacher and sole authority. There could be major change of roles.
“Babies learn from people, from faces, and the screen is a barrier to that. There’s nothing that a baby needs to master in the first year or two of life that can be taught from a screen.” - Dr. Radesky
Learning Through Observation And Imitation
Most of the learning in young children happens through observation and imitation. A child’s monitor is your face, they study every nuance and expression on your face. When children have Alexa and Siri as their baby sitters what how they learn?
Siri, Alexa or other virtual assistants communicate intelligently, but they lack in empathy and do not emote like us humans. We are not just intelligent beings but also emotional with various layers of communication. We express ourselves not only through words but also through body language, gestures, feelings and facial expressions. Will your child’s learning be one dimensional?
It is true children acquire a good deal of knowledge from virtual assistants. But the question is whether it is age appropriate learning or could is it just information over load? Psychologist tell us that passive learning is no learning at all. Learning happens when children are challenged and puts to test what they have learned.
Virtual Assistants and The Over Emphasis On Cognitive Skills
Cognitive skills are important, but so are social, behavioral and communication skills. Virtual assistants are one dimensional in nature. Are they really adequate enough to teach and mold the future generations?
Ask any teacher and he/she will tell you that children who are ahead of the class or those that have extra information are the ones who are the most difficult to handle. Is it possible that your virtual assistant nannies may make brats of your children?
We need to realize that children who constantly interact with virtual assistants may have a poor understanding of human nature. They may start to talk and act like Siri or Alexa.
Is The Baby-Tech Industry Preying On The Vulnerability Of Parents
It is the desire of every parent to give the best to their children, We buy the best toys, the latest technology gadgets to help our children to get further in life. But are all gadgets necessary?
Fisher-Price came up with a iPad-fitted toilet seat meant to aid in toilet training. Does an infant need a gadget to be potty trained? This is one example of how we could be commercial greed could use our vulnerability. Mattel had to withdraw Aristotle after 15,000 parents signed a petition against the product. The vulnerability of parents is constantly exploited by the greed of commerce.
To sell their products the niche baby-tech industry touts these products as being able to offer so much to your children and give parents ‘me time’. Has enough research gone into these products before they come to the market? It is important to be a informed parent rather than a parents who wants to give it all.
The propose of this interactive blog below is to put before you certain facts regarding the psycho-social impact of Virtual assistants on our children. We shall discuss at length about how it affects their social interactions, self-perception, learning behavior, communication in children.
Screen capture of the Querlo Chat
As technology advances and gains acceptance more and more virtual assistants will find their ways into our homes, which means more and more children have access to them. We cannot stop the advance of technology, but we can make informed decisions.
There is no denying the fact that virtual assistants do assist children in understanding and acquiring knowledge. My blog on Artificial Intelligence in Special Education goes in depth into how useful a tool AI is in education.
However, the truth is knowledge alone is not enough, social skills like communication, empathy and appropriate emotions etc play a part in who we are as humans.
It is important to consider the number of questions the use of these gadgets pose. Will our children lose out on their childhood? Will they be children ever again or will they be adults in child bodies? Early maturation of children brings with it its own psycho-social problems.
We as parents have many options before us. We could limit AI time, have supervised AI time for our children, ensure that kids are safe by not letting kids use Virtual Assistants after bedtime etc. We need to find out what works for us and our children.
It is certainly too early to say how virtual assistants will impact our children in the long run. This subject deserves more attention and research. However, as a parent it is important to be aware and be able to made educated decisions is important.
Before you leave I'd like you to watch this short video of how your child could be feed pronographic material through virtual assistants.
All images used in this blog have been duly credited, no copyright Infringement Intended.
This blog post is written in support of the announcement made by Micky about the Bitlanders AI-Themed Blogging.This blog also incorporates the C Blog (Double bonus reward topics). This article is the 14th in this series on Artificial Intelligence.
After the successful launch of "The bitLanders C-blogging", conversational AI blogging by Querlo powered by IBM Watson and Microsoft Azure. bitLanders continues to support its joint venture Querlo. We believe in our mission to promote our future - Artificial Intelligence (AI) - and build AI conversations via blogging, here we are to introduce "bitLanders AI-themed blogging!". -Credit: quote from bitLanders
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♥♥♥ Sofs ♥♥♥
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