According to New Jersey mom Yerelyn Cueva, her 6-year-old son Jariel’s favorite subject is math.
Okay, the kid likes numbers. Nothing unusual there. That fact, however, is also why his mom was surprised one day to hear the voice of Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa coming from another room in her house — where, upon investigating, she found Jariel hunched over a table asking Alexa to solve problems for him so he could get through his first-grade winter break math homework a little faster.
“It was just any regular day of doing homework,” Cueva told The New York Post about the incident, which she captured via a brief video clip that she tweeted out and which has garnered more than 8.3 million views. “I’m in the living room, and I overheard him asking Alexa some math problems, and I could not believe it! What you don’t see is after he says, ‘Thank you, Alexa, for helping me with my homework.’”
In that clip above, young Jariel can be seen asking Alexa for the answer to 5 minus 3. This is not to say he isn’t a smart kid, because it didn’t take the family having their Alexa-powered Amazon Echo device in the home very long before he realized the time-saving potential the gadget afforded him. According to Yerelyn, the family had had the Echo in their home for just a week before she caught Jariel using it this way.
In all seriousness, there is an interesting idea raised here about what effect these devices that interact with you via a human-sounding voice have on kids. The mom makes it clear Jariel was polite in his interaction, which is in contrast to the fears some technologists have had that a new generation of consumers would grow up basically barking orders at their devices. Hey Siri, do this. Assistant, do that. Let’s not forget, it was only a few weeks ago that Google rolled out an update to its Google Assistant product that actually rewards you with more cheerful responses when you’re polite and say things like please and thank you.
At any rate, given the fact that Amazon announced just before Christmas that it’s sold “tens of millions” of these Alexa devices in 2018, this is no doubt a situation we’re going to keep seeing more of. To the consternation of parents and math teachers, of course.