Culture Post: Voice Assistants Like Alexa and Siri Can Negatively Impact a Child’s Social Development

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by StudyFinds.

Voice assistants like Alexa and Siri can stunt a child’s social and emotional development, new research reveals.

Most smartphones children use have a voice app, such as Amazon’s or Apple’s smart technology. However, scientists now say they can impede critical thinking, empathy, compassion, and learning skills.

“The lack of ability to engage in non-verbal communication makes use of the devices a poor method of learning social interaction,” writes Anmol Arora of the University of Cambridge in a media release. “While in normal human interactions, a child would usually receive constructive feedback if they were to behave inappropriately, this is beyond the scope of a smart device.”

“This is particularly important at a time when children might already have had social development impaired as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and when [they] might have been spending more time isolated with smart devices at home,” Dr. Arora emphasizes.

Study authors note that gadgets can act as “friends,” boosting reading and communication skills. However, the human-sounding voices – based on advanced AI – have prompted concerns about possible long-term effects on youngsters’ brains at a crucial time in their growth.

Voice assistants are designed to search for requested information and provide a concise, specific answer. Unfortunately, this may hinder traditional processes by which children learn and absorb information.

When children ask questions, an adult can request contextual information, explain the limitations of their knowledge and probe the child’s reasoning — a process voice assistants can’t replicate. Searching for information is also an important learning experience, which teaches critical thinking and logical reasoning.

“The rise of voice devices has provided great benefit to the population. Their abilities to provide information rapidly, assist with daily activities, and act as a social companion to lonely adults are both important and useful, the author acknowledges,” Dr. Arora says.

“However, urgent research is required into the long-term consequences for children interacting with such devices,” Arora concludes. “Interacting with the devices at a crucial stage in social and emotional development might have long-term consequences on empathy, compassion, and critical thinking.”

The findings are published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Source: StudyFinds

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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