While voice-control devices can be ‘friends’ and help youngsters improve their reading and communication abilities, their advanced AI and ‘human’ sounding voices have raised concerns about the long-term consequences on children’s brains at a critical time of development.
Washington: Voice-control intelligent gadgets such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Home, may harm children’s social and emotional development, according to an expert in the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning in healthcare.
The study’s findings were published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. According to Anmol Arora of the University of Cambridge, these devices may have long-term repercussions by inhibiting children’s critical thinking, capacity for empathy and compassion, and learning skills.
While voice-control devices can be ‘friends’ and help youngsters improve their reading and communication abilities, their powerful AI and human-sounding voices have raised concerns about the long-term consequences on children’s brains at a critical time of development.
According to the author, there are three significant areas of concern. These include inappropriate responses that impede social development and learning. He offers incorrect answers, such as a device suggesting a 10-year-old touch a live plug with a coin.
“It is difficult to impose meaningful parental restrictions on such devices without drastically impairing their functioning,” he adds that privacy concerns have also arisen in recording private talks.
He claims that these devices cannot teach children how to be polite because there is no expectation of a “please” or “thank you” and no need to consider the tone of voice.
“Because of the inability to engage in nonverbal communication, the devices are a terrible technique of learning social interaction,” he adds. “While a youngster would normally receive constructive feedback if they acted up in typical human interactions, this is outside the capabilities of a smart device.”
A preliminary study on using voice assistants as social companions for older adults seems promising. However, he cautions that it is unclear whether this also applies to children.
“This is especially significant when children’s social development may already have been hampered as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, and when [they] may have been spending more time isolated with smart gadgets at home,” he emphasizes.
Devices are designed to search for desired information and offer a brief, particular answer. Still, the author contends that this may interfere with traditional methods by which children learn and assimilate knowledge.
When children ask adults questions, the adult can request contextual information, explain their knowledge constraints, and examine the child’s reasoning—a process that modern technologies cannot imitate, according to him. He says that searching for information is a crucial learning experience that fosters critical thinking and logical reasoning.
“The rise of voice devices has greatly benefited the population.” The author agrees that their skills to offer information quickly, aid with daily duties, and function as social companions to lonely adults are vital and valuable. “However,” he insists, “urgent research on the long-term consequences for children interacting with such devices is essential.”
“Interacting with the devices at a vital time in social and emotional development may have long-term implications for empathy, compassion, and critical thinking,” he concludes.