Defending Alexa: Parenting and the Echo Dot

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Image of tweet by Sarah Sanders re: Echo Dot
Image Credit: N Engineer

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently decried the Amazon Echo on Twitter, complaining that her child just ordered a toy by repeatedly yelling into the Echo.

I’ve got an Echo Dot. She’s not exactly part of the family, nor is she as helpful as Rosie from The Jetsons. Perhaps she could be, but I’ve not set her up to do all she is capable of doing. On purpose.

While Voice Purchasing would certainly be convenient, ordering from my phone is convenient enough. I don’t even have 1-Click Ordering turned on so that I’m less inclined toward impulse shopping. My kids add items to my shopping cart, or text me links to what they want/need to buy, and I order it.

Kids are supposed to test boundaries. It’s what they’re designed to do. As parents, we set boundaries, and kids push them. We reinforce or rethink the boundaries, and the battle begins anew. My kids question every rule I ever make and very rarely does “because I said so” work. I question my decisions constantly, but that doesn’t mean I always give in. It means I ask myself why I set a certain restriction. Boundaries differ per age, per kid, per situation, per weather. Parenting is complicated.

So, yes, I get that Amazon Echo makes things more convenient. Mostly, we use ours to set timers when we’re cooking, play music, ask for measurement conversions, and—when the kids are around—to tell jokes. It could certainly be set up to do more, but only once I’ve weighed the costs and benefits. Just like I used to make sure new toys didn’t have tiny pieces that could be swallowed by small children, you gotta check your tech. Something I do with anything I bring into the house.

But if you like Alexa because of the convenience it offers you to order things automatically using voice controls, don’t cry foul when someone in your household orders things automatically using voice controls.

screenshots of Alexa App Voice Purchasing settings
Image Credit: N Engineer

Instead, go to the settings on your Alexa app, go down to Voice Purchasing, and either turn it off, set up a confirmation code (though you’ll want to make sure prying ears are out of earshot whenever you use the code), or accept it. The final option is to simply throw out the figurative baby with the bathwater.

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