Smart assistants are constantly evolving to offer more features and uses. They can help you keep a schedule, set the mood for movie night, remind you to pick up the kids or even watch out for intruders.
Some features recently added to Amazon Echo devices include sound detection for running water and appliances, along with occupancy routines. As useful as they can be, smart assistants like Alexa can also be intrusive to your privacy.
And, as one mom found out, the Amazon voice assistant can also pose a risk to children. When a 10-year-old girl asked for a challenge, Alexa’s surprising response could have led to serious injury.
A new challenge?
Children are impressionable and viral challenges are just one among the many dangers they’re exposed to online. We recently reported on a 10-year-old girl who died while participating in the “blackout challenge.” Tap or click here for more and tips on preventing a tragedy like this from happening in your own family.
While these types of challenges usually spread through social media, a new story shows the danger originating elsewhere. Twitter user @klivdahl tweeted that her 10-year-old daughter recently asked Alexa for a challenge from their Echo smart speaker. Here’s how Alexa answered:
“Here’s something I found on the web. According to OurCommunityNow.com, ‘The challenge is simple: Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.'”
The suggestion seems to be taken out of context from a report warning about this dangerous challenge from Colorado news outlet Our Community Now. The “penny challenge” was briefly viral on social media sites like TikTok about a year ago.
As this deals with the dangers of electricity, it should come as no surprise that the challenge resulted in a few injuries. Luckily, the young girl in this case didn’t attempt the challenge.
After Livdahl’s tweet went viral, Amazon was quickly made aware of the situation. Without elaborating, the company said it took “swift action to fix it.”
Do your due diligence
Again, smart speakers can be useful and even fun, but you may find the risks outweigh the benefits. At the very least, your privacy is exposed to a greater degree when you have one of these devices around. Tap or click here to check out a list of more privacy-invading gadgets.
If you’re a parent of young children, there are safeguards in place to make smart assistants and speakers safer for the whole family. With Amazon Kids, your child will only have access to the content you provide and it’s free to use. First, add your children to your account:
- Open the Alexa app and tap Amazon Kids under Alexa Preferences.
- Tap Add a Kid and follow the on-screen instructions to set up a new kid profile.
- Tap Add Voice to teach Alexa your kid’s voice.
Alexa will recognize your child’s voice and offer kid-friendly responses on compatible Echo devices throughout the home, which will hopefully no longer include dangerous challenges it finds on the internet. The voice assistant will also filter songs with explicit lyrics, block shopping and only let children access parent-approved content.
You can set up controls and prompts such as bedtime, screen time, block certain types of content and more through the Amazon Parent Dashboard at parents.amazon.com.
🚨 What it means for you
When it comes to those helpful smart assistants built into speakers and displays, you have to take the bad with the good. Consider the risks to your privacy the always-listening gadgets can pose and learn the settings to limit the data that can be gathered.
✅ If you just got a new Echo or already have one, there are a few security settings you should adjust within the Alexa app. Tap or click here for Amazon Echo settings you need to change to protect your privacy.
✅ Dangerous challenge suggestions aside, we also don’t recommend putting a smart speaker in a child’s room. To further help keep them safe, here’s how to see what kids are doing on their phones.