Check out a fascinating article, When Your Kid Tries to Say ‘Alexa’ Before Mama, in the November 27, 2017 Washington Post. Tech reporter Hayley Tsukayama describes how a young child responds to the Alexa voice assistant in his house, calling out her name before learning his mom’s. She also writes about the personal voice assistant universe and expert opinions.
I am not sure what to think and, yes, it is amusing.
Yet I keep wondering whether digital toys and devices, especially those that talk, tend to distract babies and toddlers as they go about learning words and begin to carry on a basic conversation. Babies are hard-wired to learn the language that their parents speak — the words, the pitch, the intonation — and it seems like inserting digital conversations into the equation could slow down the process, or at least not be helpful. Twenty-first Century life is becoming more complex for every age as we sail nonstop into an increasingly digital world.
Babies are mini-scientists as they spend their time trying to figure things out, testing out what they think they know, and then testing some more. To learn lots more about this process check out the book, The Scientist in the Crib by Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Melzoff, and Patricia K. Kuhl, still available at Amazon. Could it be that an artificial voice adds challenges that distract a baby from the real task of learning human language? Or at the very might it at least waste an infant’s learning time?
While the paperback version of the book was published way back in 2000, the content of Alison Gopnik’s book is still relevant today, because it describes exactly what an adult can observe when an infant goes about learning how the world works. I’ve recently watched a baby go through the amazing process of developing from a newborn infant into a toddler who uses language, and the book is spot on. A baby is indeed a scientist.
The Scientist in the Crib is so good that I give it as a baby gift to parents who are expecting and also to the grandparents. Check it out.