Digital Learning

Courier E-Safety Article - Alexa & Echo

Once the stuff solely of Science Fiction (look up George Orwell’s telescreens in 1984 if you really want to scare yourself!), Artificially Intelligent ‘smart speakers’ such as the Amazon Alexa and Echo are now a common sight in homes and are beginning to play a larger part in our lives. In most cases simply taking the place of a radio in the kitchen or bedroom, they can be incredible useful and fun tools for anything from quickly finding the answer to a question, setting a reminder, ordering dishwasher tablets or listening to your favourite songs.

They do however raise a number of E-Safety concerns, both for adults and children. The first of these is over the issue of privacy, the thought that Alexa could be listening in on not just your requests and commands, but all of your private conversations, recording this data and passing it straight on to commercial companies for targeted advertising and market research. There is also bigger issue for children over age-appropriate content, as if parental restrictions aren’t set up young children could for example very easily listen to songs with explicit lyrics.

In a different light there is new research suggesting that AI ‘smart speakers’ could be having a detrimental effect on the way in which children actually interact with technology. As well as over-reliance on a device that ‘can do everything for you at a simple command’, it also raised issues of trust with a speaker that seems friendly and almost human, that could lead younger users to oversharing personal and private information and believing everything they hear without question. Please have a look at the attached guide that goes into a little more detail about these concerns and has some handy tips for using them safely.

If you have any further questions or concerns, or would like advice on a different E-Safety issue, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Mr Adkins
Head of Digital Learning