Amazon’s Alexa line of smart speakers will soon be able to notice when they’re interacting with children and go into a kid-friendly mode. Parents will be able to set up Alexa voice profiles for children in coming months, Amazon said at its device product launch event Thursday,
The kids mode will tune Alexa responses for subjects like answers to questions they ask, games, music, Audible books and premium skills.
The feature dovetails with the new $60 Echo Dot Kids Edition, a smart speaker designed to fit into kids’ bedrooms dressed up as a panda or tiger, but it’ll work with other Alexa devices, too.
The new ability helps address the difficult reality of parenting and technology. It’s great when kids can tap into educational resources and use the internet to stay in contact with friends and family while COVID-19 keeps them at home. But it’s not great when that same technology exposes kids to inappropriate content or hooks them on services that aren’t psychologically healthy.
Amazon also demonstrated a feature called Reading Sidekick that could be handy for parents dealing with home schooling during the. It’ll listen as children read books out loud and offer support and some help when the child struggles.
Reading Sidekick “is a feature I wanted … so badly 4yrs ago when kid was struggling with reading. Best way to help a child improve reading is to read out loud, but most kids hate doing it alone, hence why they suggest to read to pets,” tech analyst Carolina Milanesi tweeted. “Sadly, pets don’t give feedback.”