There are truisms about children that are undeniable. One is that children learn by mimicking adult behavior. Another far less popular adage: A child left to their own devices will always choose electronic ones.
Both came into play shortly after the holidays. Recall the story of the six-year-old girl in Dallas who was “talking to Alexa about a dollhouse and cookies.” The voice-activated digital assistant in Amazon’s Echo ordered the little girl a KidKraft Sparkle Mansion dollhouse and a 64-ounce tin of Royal Dansk sugar cookies. Initially her mom couldn’t figure out how these items landed on her doorstep — until she spoke to her daughter and checked the Amazon app.
Another six-year-old girl in Arkansas managed to unlock her mother’s phone and purchase $250 worth of Pokémon toys, simply by pressing her mom’s finger against the fingerprint reader while she was asleep!
In the case of the child in Dallas, the dollhouse was donated to a local children’s hospital. The little girl in Arkansas was able to keep most of the Pokémon she ordered, since the majority could not be returned.
Both stories suggest a new world for parents, who will need to be vigilant when it comes to installing parental controls and establishing additional lines of defense to protect smartphones and apps. In November, a federal judge ruled that Amazon must offer refunds to parents whose children made unauthorized in-app purchases.
In the meantime, it might be worthwhile to make note of these girls: They certainly appear to be curious, clever and quick to embrace new technology — all characteristics that bode well for future employment.