Should children be polite to virtual assistants?


It’s a simple question. And for most parents and child development experts, the answer is simple, too: Yes, of course they should. Nobody wants to hear children rudely barking orders at, or verbally abusing, an adult voice.

But teaching kids to say “please” and “thank you” to Alexa and Google Assistant may have unintended consequences and raise other questions that aren’t so simple.

Politeness features aim to help kids learn good manners. But the unintended consequences might be to teach kids that intelligent machines are more or less the same as people, or even that they’re authority figures that should legitimately scrutinize human behavior. From infancy, children could get used to the idea that AI can refuse to comply with instructions unless human behavior is judged acceptable by the machines.