They don’t know anything else.
That is the overall feeling I have when my daughters naturally adapt to new technologies I bring home. My kids are ages five and three: two little girls born 39 years after packet switching was invented (that is, TCP/IP, for example), 26 years after AOL, and 7 years after Facebook. My oldest daughter is a few months younger than Snapchat.
Inspired by David Rose, author of Enchanted Objects, my house is very much connected. Not overly connected with window shades that automatically move according to the sun’s movement in the sky. But, rather, the connectivity that makes life fun. We have three Amazon Echos in our 2,000 square foot house. So many that we’ve had to rename one “Amazon”, rather than “Alexa”, because they pick up commands from adjacent rooms. In addition, as the cousin that has stayed far longer for dinner than expected, we have a Google Home. There’s also a bunch of iOS devices with Siri.
Just talk, because you can’t read.
My oldest is just learning to read. Far away from casually reading, speaking outloud is her only way of commanding technology. And my youngest just started to speak clear enough to be understood (by technology, that is, not her wonderful parents). For both of them, these connected devices can do a few things that interest them, but usually it’s playing music. We listen to a lot of music in our house and luckily for me, I’ve enlightened them to Michael Jackson (can you imagine hear “Wheels on the Bus” many times in the morning? I’d rather hear Thriller many times in the morning!).
These virtual assistants are truly virtual assistants to my kids. Otherwise, there would not be another way to for them to play “Beat It” at 7am or set a timer for “4090 minutes”, my youngest’s preferred “number”. They certainly do not need this technology; at least not yet, for it will be useful as they get older and it actually benefits them. I see them using them for homework assistance, for example.
Is there a downside to a connected home? No, I don’t see any. Forget any CIA “spying” worries that make headlines – that’s absurd. More mundane fears maybe: I remember as a child in the 1980s hearing worries about computerized spell check ruining a child’s ability to spell as an adults – that’s nonsense. My kids see digital assistants as another toy – for now, at least. I look forward to showing them all the cool and useful features of digital assistants. For example, they can ask it how to spell words, because I can’t spell very well at all.
Andre Preoteasa is the founder and CEO of Drinks Technology, the first and only IT services company for the beverage alcohol industry. He’s a technologist into everything from blockchain to big data to snapchat filters. A New Jersey resident with two young daughters, he would be a historian if it paid as well as tech.