Although Amazon’s Alexa, which speaks Czech, has not yet reached us, even the youngest in the United States happily communicate with voice assistants. Apple’s Tel Siri speaks the most languages of any voice assistant, twenty-one. And even if she understands Danish, Hebrew, Malay or Thai, she still can’t learn Czech, even if it has to come anytime soon.
In our country, most households communicate with Siri or Alex in addition to English. However, thanks to social networks and video games, Czech children learn English from an early age, so it is possible that they have already encountered a voice assistant. And perhaps their parents are facing similar issues to New York Times reporter Judith Danovitch. One day, she left her four-year-old son and his iPad alone and didn’t have time to think about what questions Siri had asked her to ask.
Children see computers and smartphones primarily as toys, and if they were to take them as a source of information, they would be skeptical of them.
“How do turtles get into the shell? Do eagles eat snakes? Why do things die? Is ass a dirty word? were just a few of them. Most of the time, however, the son received the answer: “I don’t understand your question. However, the reporter began to wonder what would happen if her son received the answer. Would he trust her?
They are more of a toy
Today, children are already growing up thanks to technology, toddlers, for example, can find their favorite video on YouTube before they learn to read. And before they start going to kindergarten, they can search for a lot of information on the Internet. They love their devices. One would therefore assume that children will also trust technology, as well as adults when searching for information on the net. Recent research, however, says otherwise. Children see computers and smartphones primarily as toys, and if they were to take them as a source of information, they would be skeptical of them.
Although the kids had a lot of experience with technology, they didn’t see it as something to learn.
A study by psychologists Sierra Eisen and Angelina Lillard asked adults and children aged 4 to 6 to assign values to subjects such as a computer, tablet, smartphone and book. Almost all children were able to identify computers, tablets, and smartphones as devices that played games, watched movies, and took photos. But when kids were asked what kind of topic they could use to learn about dogs, they usually picked a book (adults picked a computer). Although the kids had a lot of experience with technology, they didn’t see it as something to learn.
They prefer to ask strangers
One of the reasons why children do not see computers as an adequate source of information may be that they simply do not understand the Internet. According to studies, some children think the Internet is something inside a computer, or that its content comes from a box in the house, like a router.
Children are also careful who they trust. In situations where two people hear conflicting information, young children naturally tend to trust someone they know, such as a mother or a teacher. They trust strangers less. And according to the survey, he believes in the Internet even less. In another study, for example, researchers asked children who they would rather ask a question about an unfamiliar animal, a stranger, or the Internet. Most four-year-olds would rather ask a stranger. It is only after the age of eight that children start asking questions on the Internet, but even then it is not clear that they believe in the answers.
Children don’t know if technology is able to answer their questions, and they seem to be a little skeptical of their answers.
Another study showed that children who were given a new voice assistant like Siri or Alex tended to ask it questions they already knew the answer to, just to try it out. The assistant was also asked about personal questions, such as “What’s my name?” or “Do I have brothers or sisters?”. They wanted to see what these new devices knew. This behavior confirms that the children do not know if the technology is able to answer their questions and that they seem a little skeptical about their answers.
Even children verify the information
Voice assistants are increasingly present in homes and have even recently appeared in schools. In this way, children have all the information provided by the Internet at their fingertips. And while that may sound scary, the good news is that kids don’t really trust the internet and always prefer to check information with a human. The bad news may be that if kids don’t believe in the internet, they may not even be able to learn anything from it. And that’s a shame, because most parents probably don’t know exactly what an eagle feeds on (not snakes).
What do you think will come out of it? Probably parents and teachers should talk to their children not only about Internet and social media safety, but also about their basic features. What is the Internet, where does the information come from and what questions is the voice assistant able and unable to answer.
photo: Shutterstock, source: New York Times