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The rapid rise of voice control assistant devices, particularly smart devices such as Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, have attracted speculation about their psychological effects on users. These devices are designed to respond to human interaction with realistic voices, often in a conversational manner through natural language processing. There are increasing suggestions that such devices may act as ‘friends’ to children, being advertised as reading companions to help children improve their reading skills.1 Early research also suggests that treating the devices as conversation partners may help families to improve children’s communication skills by challenging verbal mistakes.2 However, the advanced artificial intelligence driving the devices as well as the human-sounding voices have attracted concerns that the assignment of mental and social attributes to the devices may negatively affect children's cognitive and social development.
Concerns about the human–computer interaction between children and smart devices can broadly be categorised as shown in figure 1:
Impeding social development
Hindering learning opportunities
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.