As parents we want to ensure there are parental controls when our kids use devices that potential could cause them harm. The Echo dot is a device that is safe for kids and in this article we will explain the reason why and give you all the information you need to decide for yourself. There are modern Bluetooth speakers that can be used that are not necessarily reliant on the Echo dot system.
The Echo Dot Speaker is operated by a voice assistant, it is what they call a smart speakers. Because it is operated by a voice assistant that means the microphone and internet are always on so someone is always listening or data is being stored. What smart speakers are doing is constantly listening to everything around them waiting for commands to follow. This does not mean to say it is not listening to other conversations too. This has raised many concerns and questions.
The Concerns and Risks
A question that has been raised by many is Alexa listening to everyone including kids, there is no age filter or a filter on what is being recorded? Many advocacy groups focused on individual and parents’ rights alike, have raised concerns with the ever-evolving ability of smart speakers storing the voice recordings of children. On top of this, Amazon had unlimited access to the recordings are kept and data which if they wanted could be pulled at will at any time.
This inevitably led to a lawsuit that was filed in Seattle federal court whereby Amazon flat out denied any wrongdoing. So much so very soon thereafter they released a new Echo Dot Kids Edition. This newer version was brightly painted and to further shift any focus away from their recent court troubles by offering otherwise paid-for services and subscriptions for free. The free service is for any damaged units and they get immediately replaced. Also included is a subscription to their content service, FreeTime, unlimited too. This, for many, may sound too good to be true, however, does it just further highlight more questions. For example; Is Alexa and its counterparts pure in their motive to just and only provide kid-friendly content?
What is now becoming more and more prevalent is people, in a loud manner, are raising privacy concerns in regards to smart devices at home. During court proceedings, it was alleged that Amazon violated kids’ privacy laws by capturing what millions of children have been talking about, their voices, and their personal information.
To make the most out of your smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo devices, the far-field microphones could not be turned off while, for instance, a child wants to play music or play games. With the latest Amazon Alexa device settings, you have to physically turn the microphone on and off which may seem to defeat the purpose of having Amazon devices and other Echo devices.
The concerns and breaching of privacy laws aforementioned were not strictly bound to Amazon these concerns were equally also with Google and Apple. However, due to the many troubles Amazon faced with their Alexa device, to this day, the question is still being asked are these devices as kid-friendly as they want you to believe they are?
Making Kids Safe
To put it bluntly, a reaction Amazon took was to release a new generation, the 4th generation of the Echo Dot Kids Edition. This generation of Echo Dot Kids Edition addressed the concern of privacy laws and what is being recorded and what data is being stored through new technology. One way was by equipping the Amazon Echo Dot with a microphone on and microphone off button. This was seen as a form of parental control because it reassured parents the only data being sent to the Alexa account was what the allowed.
As we have seen above, the answer to the question initially raised “Is the Echo Dot Safe for Kids?” is a nuanced one. Amazon Alexa and other devices like Apples Siri and Google Home have come a long way since their beginnings. However, despite them developing new technology every day and forever adding improved features it will never fit the needs and wants of everybody. Simply put, people are given two scenarios; Are you comfortable, and don’t feel there’s any danger to worry about when it comes to privacy and data collection? or, Does collecting personal data feel like a violation that may lead to trouble or danger?.
These questions underpin that using and owning a smart device is purely a personal choice or preference. If you feel uneasy about your privacy when using ‘Alexa’, then you will have to stop what you are doing and go and mute the device. If you are fine with ‘Alexa’ the way it is then enjoy its convenience.