We live in a technologically privileged time; food can be ordered, facts can be found, and annoying songs can be summoned with a mere uttered instruction. And all without even saying please. Is this awesome? Obviously. Is it also a problem? Probably.
According to a recent survey by the Childwise agency, home gadgets such as Amazon’s Alexa and iPhone’s Siri are leading our kids down a path of putrescent manners: don’t worry about please, thank you, or even a polite tone of voice; demand, and ye shall get.
“Will children become accustomed to saying and doing whatever they want to a digital assistant? ‘Do this, do that’ – talking as aggressively or rudely as they like without any consequences?” says Simon Leggett, director of Childwise research.
“Will they then start doing the same to shop assistants or teachers?”
The report revealed that younger children are more likely to use the digital helpers than older children — with only less than half of 15 and 16-year-olds who have one at home saying they’ve made use of it. The takeaway of these findings is that if Alexa and Siri do have an influence, their audience is most certainly at an impressionable age to absorb it.
And the issue is not only about voice-activated gizmos; it’s the double-edged blade of the technological age. Goods arrive at our front doors as if by magic, films are streamed instantaneously –and no money changes hands; immediate gratification sans effort or cost (at least to your little outward observers).
Some say such criticisms are rooted in Orwellian fears; of course children know the difference between a device and a human being, and will sagely tailor their communication in accordance. And of course kids these days understand the nature of digital transaction, and that things still cost money, even if you don’t see the physical payment, even if you don’t understand the sacrifice of working a 9-5 to accommodate it all. Even if you can just yell, “Alexa! Order that sandwich spread I like. And play that annoying song while you’re at it.”