Childproofing Your Smart Home Against Your Smart Kid
I’m not the type of person to have a voice assistant in my house. I’m just not sure I want a disembodied voice answering my questions or chiming in unexpectedly when it thinks I said its name. But I understand the appeal. I have several friends who swear by their Google Home or their Amazon Echo. Several of the other parenting blogs I read also talk about how convenient they are… but there’s also some pretty great stories about kids misusing them!
I’ve read stories about kids asking Google to order them pizza or using Alexa to buy themselves toys on Amazon. It just goes to show that while technology might be getting smarter, so are our kids! It got me thinking about how to childproof your smart home against your smart kid! I chatted with other parents and friends who have voice assistants in their home. Here are the best tips they had for making sure your voice assistant doesn’t take a turn from convenience to liability:
- Enable parental controls. Both Google and Amazon have parental controls that can be configured to hinder kids from using the device, or at least limit their capacity. FreeTime from Amazon is the equivalent of a child lock and the parental controls on Google Home are actually really robust. Parental controls are a great way to make sure kids don’t order products, listen to explicit music or mess up your configurations.
- Configure voice recognition. Amazon’s Alexa is actually smart enough to learn your voice and can store up to 10 voice profiles at a time. Based on the voice, you can limit the function of the assistant. I have friends who have set up voice profiles for their kids, so they can use the device normally, but with heavy restrictions on what it’s capable of doing for them.
- Set limits. All the major voice assistants have preferences you can configure to prevent mishaps caused by kids. If your kids are enamored with your smart devices, it’s best to set limits to prevent problems altogether. Disable voice ordering of products or prevent outbound calling on the device. Try to find the balance between restricting problems and limiting your device’s capabilities.
- Talk to your kids. Several of my friends told me they don’t have any problems with their home voice assistants because they’ve taken the time to talk to their kids about properly using them. Their kids are old enough to understand the technology they’re using. They know that ordering products costs money, so they don’t do it! Sometimes all it takes is some ground rules to keep kids from accidentally (or purposefully) abusing the technology.
Some of the people I know who have voice assistants have entire home networks built out around them. Their lights, locks and shades are all voice-controlled, and their home functions on automations. It’s pretty neat, but I don’t think I’m there yet. Thankfully for parents like myself, it seems like most of the major manufacturers have planned ahead for a smarter future—one where kids and voice technology can coexist.