Here’s Our #1 Family Rule When Using an Alexa

We got an Amazon Alexa a couple of years ago as a gift for the holidays. At first, I was a little apprehensive to use. While I am not a total digital security “Big Brother is watching” type, I do find that a device that is always listening is a bit uncomfortable. However, I did finally set it up so that the kids could have video chats with our extended family.

A Handful of Rules

Our kids are younger and have not been exposed much to the internet. They certainly don’t have their own devices to readily browse YouTube videos. So when it came to having an Alexa, I  wanted to set a few rules that should be followed.

Ask a parent the question first, before asking Alexa.

I always want to know what my kids are going to be searching for before they search for it. So far it has always been appropriate kid searches (‘Alexa, show me pictures of cheetahs’ is our most common search), but I wanted to, as an early habit, for our kids to ask us first, no matter what the question is.

Our kids use Alexa to search for photos of cheetahs.
Our kids use Alexa to search for photos of cheetahs.

Keep the camera closed

I said I’m not much of a ‘Big Brother is watching’ type, but when it comes to a camera that is in our kitchen, and always on, I prefer that we keep it closed.

Use it sparingly.

This is more of a teach-by-example type rule that my wife and I use, and the kids naturally follow. We really don’t use the Alexa that much throughout the week. Every so often, in the morning, I may ask what the weather for the day and week is looking like. Occasionally, when a very specific question comes up at the dinner table, like, ‘How far away is the Moon?’, we’ll ask the Alexa rather than searching on our phones.

Almost always, when my wife or I consult Alexa, the kids always remember that is a fun thing, too, and want to start asking questions themselves. By using it sparingly, they hardly remember it is there.

The #1 Rule

I think the best rule, which is another ‘lead by example’ that the kids inherently replicate, is to use our manners. For the kids, I want them to appreciate help from whomever, or wherever, it comes. As assisted technologies become more and more a part of our everyday lives, it is increasingly more important not to depend on and expect things of them without acknowledgment. We wouldn’t let our kids not say “please” and “thank you” if they ask for a glass of juice. Why shouldn’t they extend that same courtesy to an Artificial Intelligence when it has successfully scoured the internet for pictures of Cheetahs?

Plus, when you say, “Alexa, thank you,” it responds accordingly!