Google and Amazon both recently announced that their voice assistants will respond to requests that end in “please.” Parents are worried that because their children are commanding information from these devices, they are not learning manners. To counter this anxiety, Google’s Assistant will now have a “Pretty Please” feature reminding kids to “say the magic word” before responding.
But many psychologists think kids being polite to virtual assistants is less of an issue than parents think—and may even be a red herring. “Of course parents worry about these devices reinforcing negative behaviors, whether it’s being sassy or teasing a virtual assistant,” says Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at U-M and co-author of the latest guidelines for media use from the American Academy of Pediatrics. “But I think there are bigger questions surrounding things like kids’ cognitive development—the way they consume information and build knowledge.”