We can’t keep our kids away from our gadgets, and the new Amazon Echo, the online retail giant’s bestselling product over Christmas, is no exception.
If you don’t already know, Amazon Echo — now in millions of homes worldwide — is a voice-controlled speaker powered by intelligent assistant Alexa. Alexa is the perfect virtual companion for those who are just too overloaded (or lazy) to do things like shop, play music and adjust your thermostat yourself.
Sounds great. But when kids get in on the Echo game, the potential for turmoil is huge. In Dallas, Texas, a 6-year-old girl asked Alexa the innocent question, “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” As Alexa likes to make wishes come true, she immediately ordered the little girl a KidKraft’s dollhouse and — presumably in case she was hungry during play time — 4 pounds of sugar cookies. It only took seconds — and almost $200.
The story was reported on a local morning show on San Diego’s SW6 News, which led to several other dollhouses arriving at the doors of Echo owners who were watching the news broadcast. Apparently, anchor Jim Patton’s remark, “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,'” triggered orders on viewers’ devices. It was a great day for KidKraft.
It’s not just accidental ordering that takes place when Alexa goes off script. Last week, a young boy asked his parents’ Amazon Echo to “play “Digger, Digger’.” But instead of playing a song about a large earth-digging machine, Alexa announced, “You want to hear a station for porn detected,” and proceeded to list a number of choices that really aren’t suitable for young ears (or eyes.)
The funniest part is the parents’ reaction when they realize what’s happened. It’s the digital equivalent of a kid discovering their parents’ porn stash.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution, to avoid unwanted dollhouse deliveries and the traumatization of your kid. Pin-protect your devices, parents.