Google Assistant and Alexa have been victims of privacy concerns for some time, but they continue to encroach into millions of homes. But it appears that they can also be detrimental to children’s growth when it comes to their psychosocial development and acquisition of core skills.
According to analysis According to experts at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, interacting with AI assistants affects children in three ways. At the bottom of the chain begins the obstacle to learning opportunities.
AI assistants from Amazon, Apple, and Google continue to improve at an alarming rate, and with each passing year their ability to pull relevant answers from the web is also gaining momentum. With such ease at their disposal, experts believe that the traditional process of hunting and absorbing knowledge has taken a back seat.
The real problem with this is that when children ask a question to an older person, be it their parents or teachers, they are often asked about the context and reasons for their question. In addition, when a person searches for an answer, he develops a critical approach, logical thinking to analyze the right kind of information, and the scope of his imagination also expands.
“Children have a poor understanding of how information is accessed from the Internet, where the Internet is stored, and the limitations of the Internet,” the report said. With such a chain of beliefs on the Internet, it becomes much easier for young minds to assimilate false information.
The cesspool of misinformation plaguing the internet needs no introduction, and platforms continue to struggle to contain it — but AI assistants are making matters worse. A Stanford research project in 2021 found that Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri provide different answers and search results on health questions. Adults can be trusted to make informed decisions in such a scenario, but children are at extremely high risk here.
Next comes stunted social growth. Person-to-person conversations help refine social etiquette and allow children to learn how to behave properly in the outside world. Chatting with a digital assistant does not offer this privilege.
In short, AI assistants offer a poor way to learn social interactions, despite advances like natural language processing and Google’s LaMDA innovation. Google Assistant can talk to you naturally, just like another person, but it can’t teach children basic manners and teach them to behave like decent people.
For example, there is no incentive to learn polite words like “please” when speaking to a virtual assistant living in a puck-sized speaker, nor is constructive feedback possible. In the pandemic-driven era we live in, the scope for real human interactions has continued to shrink, posing even greater risk to the social development of young minds.
Finally, there is the problem of inappropriate answers. Not all guardians have the digital skills to set strict boundaries for parental software control. This puts children at risk of being exposed to content that is not age appropriate and could lead them directly to harmful information that could be dangerous. Per a BBC Report in 2021, Amazon’s Alexa once risked the life of a 10-year-old by asking him to touch a live circuit part with a metal coin.
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