A baby in the UK reportedly said ‘Alexa’ as his first word, and it reveals a raging debate over how children use tech
Amazon recently came out with a kid’s edition of its popular Alexa-enabled Echo Dot device tailored to a younger crowd with features designed specifically with them in mind
By Dennis Green
For at least one couple in the UK, Alexa was more important to their baby than mommy or daddy.
Parents Lottie Ledger and Mark Brady told the UK’s Caters News Agency that their one-year-old child said the word “Alexa” to an Amazon Echo device before saying any of the more classic first words.
“One day he managed it. We thought it was funny at first so we encouraged it,” Ledger said, as was reported by the New York Post. “He actually said Alexa before he said Mum or Dad.”
The child, Joe, interacted with the device at a grandparent’s house.
“It was one of the few things he could get a reaction from at that time,” Ledger told the agency. “Alexa would say, ‘Sorry, I didn’t get that.’”
The story is far from the first example of very young children interacting with voice-assistant technology. YouTube and Facebook are filled with examples of parents filming their children interacting with Alexa via an Amazon Echo device.
Amazon itself has capitalised on this, releasing a version of the popular Echo Dot device that’s meant just for kids. More limited in functionality and paired with parent-set safeguards, the device comes in more kid-friendly bright colors like blue, green, and red.
It can do things like read children’s books or automatically filter out explicit lyrics in songs. It has features like voice shopping automatically turned off.
The device, which was announced in April, is Amazon’s first admission that kids can and should use its Alexa platform, and it could signal a new push for wider integration in children’s lives. The company is likely betting that getting kids used to using the service early will make them use it when they’re older — and then use it to do things like shop.
Not everyone is on board with this technology, however.
“Amazon may love the idea of children forming a dependence on a branded data-gathering device, but the Echo Dot for Kids raises a host of privacy and child development concerns,” Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood said to Adweek.
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