Kids Have a Shaky Sense About Alexa's Feelings

Study finds that children are a little confused about the capabilities of smart devices
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2024 8:43 AM CDT
Kids Have a Shaky Sense About Alexa's Feelings
   (Getty / Andrey Popov)

Young children don't have a great sense about whether smart devices such as Alexa and Siri have feelings like us, a new study suggests. Researchers in Scotland surveyed more than 160 kids ages 6 to 11 and found that many are unclear about whether the devices can think for themselves, reports Live Science. Highlights from the study published in the journal Computers and Education: Artificial Intelligence:

  • Generally, "most children overestimated the (Conversational Assistants') intelligence and were uncertain about the systems' feelings or agency," reads the study's abstract. "They also lacked accurate understanding of data privacy and security aspects."

  • About 33% of children thought the devices could think for themselves, and another 40% were at least unsure about that.
  • However, only 1% of respondents called the devices "human," with most (80%) classifying them as artificial intelligence.
  • Overall, about 70% of the children said it would be wrong to be rude to a smart device.
  • Nearly 70% of 8-year-olds thought it wouldn't be right to toss out the device if it breaks, though only 37% of 11-year-olds felt the same way.

"Children should be taught AI literacy in schools, and technology designers should take care that their AI products don't mislead children into thinking they are human-like," says study co-author Judy Robertson in a statement from the University of Edinburgh. "AI is often designed to appear more human and intelligent than it really is, which is very confusing for children." (More Alexa stories.)

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