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At some point, or more likely on the very first day you buy a smart speaker, your kid is also going to want to try it out.
You need to consider how your kids will safely interact with Alexa or Google Assistant or if you’ll even allow them to use the smart speaker at all.
Most parents are (rightly) uncomfortable when it comes to kids and technology and especially technology that involves online content.
There are just too many minefields online – pornography, explicit songs, violence…it’s a long list.
There’s also the issue of privacy.
Luckily, smart speakers are fairly safe and can be beneficial for kids when set up and used properly.
Amazon and Google have made it easier for kids to enjoy their smart speakers and they offer various children-specific activities and apps.
The most important thing is for parents to be involved especially in the beginning. Guide your kids on how to properly use the smart speaker and keep an eye on them for any issues.
Here are more tips.
Create a Kid’s Account
Both Google and Amazon let you create a separate account for your child.
I highly recommend you do it. It gives you much more control over how they are using the smart speaker.
The account also automatically limits their access to certain types of content, giving you peace of mind even when you are away.
For instance, when using a Google Child account with your Google Home, kids cannot access YouTube videos or songs, make purchases or play songs from Google Play Music unless you’ve set up a Google Play Music family plan.
For Amazon Echo, I recommend you sign up for Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service for kids. It provides thousands of kid-friendly content including books, videos and music.
Use the Alexa app on your phone to set it up and create a child profile. If you’ve done so already, you just need to add it to a particular Echo device.
You’ll be able to select which services will be available on that Echo device. So you can turn off features like messaging & calling, Drop-In and Amazon Music. You can also opt to filter explicit music.
Note: If you don’t want to use your own Echo speaker with your kids, get them the Echo Dot Kids Edition. It’s currently selling for around $60. It comes with a full year’s subscription to FreeTime after which you pay $2.99 per month.
Activate Kid-Friendly Skills and Apps
Your kids can simply ask Alexa or Google Assistant questions like “What’s a volcano?” or “Who was the 10th president?”.
But to get the most out of these smart speakers, use third party skills and apps.
For the Amazon Echo smart speaker, there are tons of kid-specific skills available including games, music, educational and even lullabies.
As for Google Home, there are several built-in games including quizzes, trivia, spelling and numbers.
There are also several third party apps that provide a wide range of fun activities and games for kids.
Check Your Privacy Settings
Both Google Home and Amazon Echo give you plenty of ways to protect your privacy. You may want to modify a few of the privacy settings when your kids are using the smart speaker.
Consider disabling the camera if there’s one, blocking all incoming voice and video calls and disabling voice purchases.
If you are feeling extra cautious, you can also delete their voice history data afterwards.
Teach them to Be Polite
One consequence of smart speakers that many people did not see coming is that they tend to make kids less polite.
A while back, many parents raised concerns that their kids were rude to Alexa and that rudeness sometimes extended to people.
I don’t really fault them. It has never crossed my mind to say please when asking Alexa to switch on the TV.
But it can be a big problem for kids who may not separate between their impoliteness to a smart speaker and people.
In response, Amazon introduced a new feature called Magic Word that encourages children to be polite when making voice commands.
It’s much easier and more effective to teach them yourself.
Using words like ‘Please’ and Thank you’ will teach your kids not only to be kind to virtual assistants but also their family and friends.