“Hey Siri, put me on music Alexa, tell me a story Ok Google, is it going to rain today?” These types of phrases are ready to be part of the usual conversations in many homes. And children can participate in them.
The landing of new virtual assistants in loudspeakers activated only by voice, has the potential to change the way we get something with help or through technology . It will be usual for children to talk with Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri and this is a major challenge. Should I teach them to be nice and ask them please?
In Engadget we have been talking with parents, pedagogues and psychologists to know what we are facing as parents and try to find balance in a future where we could be surrounded by robots and helped by assistants that we do not see.
A new technology supposes a new educational challenge for parents
This 2018 is going to be the year of the massive arrival of virtual assistants to the home . They were already on the telephone or the computer, but their integration with loudspeakers that are constantly listening will make children more participants of this technology .
As if we did not have enough with the use of mobile phones! It could perfectly be a quick response from a good number of parents. The reality is that the arrival of the virtual assistants and in the future the robots suppose an educational challenge more for the parents and in a certain way a clash of focus because in many cases there is no physical device such as we are used to it.
“It is true that in the relationship of children and adolescents with technology, the norm for them is to interact
with a screen. In fact, they are much more surprised by the possibility of 'talking' with a virtual assistant
that everything they do with tablets, smartphones, consoles, computers and their hands. In the case of
Younger children, it is even customary to ask if there is a person inside the device. But soon they miss the surprise “
Maria Zabala knows very well She is a mother and a regular at events related to the education of what she calls iKids, at home, the use of voice and virtual assistants has long since started.
“My daughter asks Google Home all kinds of things and my teenage son asks Siri to search Google the results of the League “
The arrival of the attendees at home has not been free but has meant for her a pillar more than add to the education of their children .
Promoting positive interaction with virtual assistants
If a father or mother, before the arrival of the Internet or the mobile phone at home, should consider an education based on their personal and prior experience as well as in an appropriate use, with virtual assistants was not going to be less. The role of the adult is once again key for the use of a technology to end up adding and not subtracting a child.
Maria Zabala gives a point of interesting support: differentiate between speed, information and thought when we refer to the use of virtual assistants by children and adolescents.
“With agility I mean that a virtual assistant is enormously useful in the logistics organization
or details of daily life -give me in 10 minutes to come out and not be late to basketball,
give me the alarm tomorrow at 7 am because I have to review Mathematics, record the shopping list
that I'm going to dictate so that mom remembers buying toothpaste. With information I allude to the undoubted role of this type of devices when it comes to having data that you need instantly or answering questions whose answers you never knew – tell me what time you will do tomorrow in my city, when they release the X movie in my country, in what year Christian was born
Ronaldo- In these two facets, children and adults can have a positive interaction with virtual assistants “
” Invite our children to streamline their efforts and inform themselves, but encourage them also to continue thinking for themselves “
The element of conflict or that makes the difference is that of thought, especially if we talk about children.
“If that assistant becomes a machine that prevents us from thinking, remember what we know or look for what
we need, then it makes us lazy. In what year did Columbus arrive in America? How much is 17
x 30? What is The capital of canada? These questions have to be answered by children through their own learning process, so our role as adults is to encourage that learning
independent – with study habits, with resources to know how to search and document – “
In children and adolescents, that path in the management of their memory knots of concept or consecutive learning is still to go.
In a similar way the pedagogue thinks Alicia Rabago author of the book “ Educate them in spite of themselves “. Information, preparation and knowledge, in addition to the need to be involved with a technology that will end up being present on a daily basis and that we can not refuse, much less deny .
How should a child talk to a virtual assistant?
In the near future , much of the interaction with technology will require that we simply address assistants or robots as we would with a person: instruction, commentary or as usual, order .
And it will not always be in the environment Private home may be at the reception of a hotel or at the exit of a supermarket. Or with a “partner” of work. With what attitude should we teach children to face the way to address that device that will carry out their orders?
“Children extrapolate their learning of how to approach people, how to ask for things, the attendees”
Silvia Álava is a Doctor in Psychology and director of the Children's Center of Psychology Álava Reyes, besides lecturer and author of books like “We want you to grow happy” . For her, the interaction of children with assistants and robots is not yet a reality that is on a daily basis in a majority way, so it is difficult to know what is going to happen .
María Zabala is convinced that your children will live with a very advanced technology soon. Her role as a mother is to help them understand that those who think, reason and feel are them . And that the machines are there to help, expedite or inform. And they are not people.
“Maybe you do not need to add 'please' when you ask about the weather tomorrow, but it is necessary to assume a role as a responsible human being, and by this I mean that, if we do not want to, as it is said, the machines dominate us, we have to learn to relate to these machines and resort to them for the necessary, but not for everything, not for those things that we can do “
Olga, mother of two children of 6 and 9 years old, he still sees that future of personal assistants far away. For now they just use it on their mobile phones to add a reminder, and it is not in their plans to buy and incorporate a speaker that integrates assistant in their home. But if someday they entered the house, it is clear that would want their children to at least not be tyrants . Not with a machine.
“I think that the personality of each child will be what makes the treatment given to an assistant more or less educated, I see it in birthday or in the park, if there is not a father or mother next to a child who he answers badly or is not educated with another person who helps him to explain or correct him, that child logically can not address a virtual assistant correctly that surely is even less than a person for him “
A slave in the service of my son
María Zabala does not just assimilate that when she meets teenagers who turn to Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Google Home her feeling is that the deal is similar to that once was given to slaves. Will children be able to not differentiate between dealing with a virtual assistant / robot and a “human” worker who offers a service?
If we see a danger that this will happen, the role of the parents, according to Alicia Rabago, is to bring them closer to reality . For her the situation only has possibilities of happening if for example almost the only interaction that the child has is with robots and machines.
“For children the virtual part is a fundamental part of their existence, but we must work as parents so that they do not lose that contact with reality, with their emotions, with their feelings, with their introspection and reflection, that without a doubt they have forgotten us because every time we have less time to connect with ourselves and not only with a device As parents we should not lose consciousness of this “
That's why it's so important that parents do not let a virtual assistant serve as an example or show how to relate to others to a child ] Not even if those robots or assistants are able to show emotions.
“The child does not have a virtual assistant mode or a human mode, he is going to direct an assistant the same way he addresses a person”
Although they are still exceptional cases, artificial intelligence allows some robots to show emotions and may even react to ours or a child. But those algorithms that make it possible can not teach them. For Silvia Álava is one of the most important aspects in which to influence this future relationship children / attendees.
“Emotions are something that must be taught to the child and what humans have to do, not robots”
And of course, and Silvia strongly influences in it, the emotional part, not only referring to the learning but day to day, it is a matter of parents and adults who are at each moment with children.
The robot or assistant can not replace the parents
Those of us who are parents know first-hand how dolls, toys and the most unexpected objects are much more than that for children.
Olga has lived it very recently. Last Christmas he gave his young son a programmable robot that has become for him a “friend” with whom he talks and invents adventures at home. He does not even want to think about the possible relationship of affection that a humanoid robot or a willing assistant could develop his son.
The educator Alicia Rabago sees much more likely that the relationship of children with assistants and robots derive in a need and dependence than in an affective relationship.
“Today there is an incredible need to be connected, and it does not only happen in children, it happens with adults who supposedly have very clear that it is an object or a robot.Today more than ever it is necessary to work on our self-esteem and that of our
Silvia Álava warns parents that they should not think that a child will be just as careful with a robot as with them . And they must be responsible and responsible for the child can not get to see the assistant or a robot as a substitute for their parents. It's a machine.
“The assistant, at a certain moment, will be able to help certain things, but not supplying that figure of a father or mother and their emotional support”
The danger of a “perfect” sleepiness
To Olga, who admits that she spends less time working with her children on her own account than she would like with her children, she gives an involuntary half smile when I ask her if she sees that, due to circumstances, the care that a child does not receive from her parents find easily in the virtual assistants. He quickly reacts and a rictus of sadness and some concern appears on his face.
He tells me that he has come to mind the use that parents make of technology to keep the little ones entertained and without bothering . A “ shut down ” I tell him. And he gives me the reason even though he did not know that term.
“Right now, without knowing how these assistants work, I am afraid that they prefer to speak or play with a voice coming from a loudspeaker than with their school friends in the park.” I know many of my son's classmates they are crazy with the tablet and the phone, they want it at all hours and they get angry if they do not get it when they want “
Alicia Rabago sees less likely that a child finds in a robot or virtual assistant the attention that his parents do not give him.
“There is nothing that exists and replaces the attention and time that parents give their children, in the end a virtual assistant solves needs, but never will fill the space of a real person”
Your point of Support is that today no assistant or robot is capable of presenting emotions that can be compared to those of human beings. If a person develops an affective relationship with a machine, for Alicia there is no other explanation than the emotional lack in “real life” .