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Study: Language assistants can have a negative impact on children's development

Study: Language assistants can have a negative impact on children’s development

According to research by a British research team from the University of Cambridge, the prevalence and use of language assistants can negatively affect children’s social and cognitive development. The scientific paper, published in Archives of Disease in Childhood Tuesday, shows that using Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s Siri can have long-term effects on language, empathy, compassion and critical thinking.

According to the science team at “The Impact of Smart Voice Control Devices on Children: Current Challenges and Future Prospects” It would associate language assistants with children with human characteristics and behaviours. Then the children imitate the devices and also adopt the imperfections of their language, such as the monotonous tone without tone and with a steady voice.

In addition, children do not have to ask the language assistants for anything, but can only give them commands. Thank you for the answer is not necessary. Social morals, as they are common among people, recede into the background. For example, children may also display rude behavior towards people. Also, children no longer learn to ask more complex questions. These are simply designed for language assistants so that the hardware can understand them. “Questions always come in the form of a request,” says Anmol Arora, one of the study’s co-authors.

The research team wrote that language assistants are not suitable for learning social interaction because nonverbal communication is missing. When communicating, children receive a wide range of constructive feedback if they behave incorrectly. Language assistants cannot respond to such behavior in a targeted manner.

Amazon already has the “Magic Word” functionality built into the Kids Edition of the Echo Dot. Then Alexa rewards polite manners in communication. Scientists also criticize this.

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When children ask questions to other people, the exchange takes place in a conversation. In this way, children learn, for example, how to ask the other person questions when more information about the question is needed. Children’s arguments in the conversation can also be checked. Language assistants do not convey the process of searching for information. They only give very short and specific answers. Children cannot understand how and where language assistants obtained this information. Accordingly, there is a lack of learning experience that promotes critical thinking and logical thinking in children.

Researchers acknowledge, however, that language assistants also have positive effects, such as the ability to obtain information quickly. Also, they can be a social companion for lonely adults. The scientific team believes that more research is needed into the potential long-term effects of language assistants on children.


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