Parents Worry Voice Assistants Like Alexa Can Listen in on Kids

You're cool chatting up Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant and Siri and having each come alive when you utter the "Alexa," "Hey, Google" or "Hey, Siri" wake words.

But your kids are also engaging with the popular digital voices inside the smart speakers in your home and your big concern has mostly to do with privacy.

That's the chief takeaway from a new study, exclusive to USA TODAY and conducted in February, by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey Audience.

More than 4 in 10 of the 1,127 parents of children ages 2 to 8 who participated in the survey say their family uses a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Nearly 6 in 10 say their young children interact with a voice-activated assistant such as Siri or Alexa.

And 58 percent of parents whose kids use the smart speakers think it is at least moderately likely that someone could hack those speakers and listen in to their conversations. As a result, 40 percent have turned off their smart speaker's microphone to prevent it from listening.

It's important to recognize that while Alexa may be listening for its wake word, it is not constantly recording. But when Amazon's assistant does wake up, that's when what it hears is sent to the company's cloud servers, where your words are recorded and translated into commands. Alexa also keeps a record of all the commands you've given it so that it can better learn how to answer you.

A whopping 93 percent of parents in the SurveyMonkey poll who use such voice-activated devices say it is important to know when their family's voices are being recorded. An equal number said it's important to control whatever information is collected about them. Nearly as many want to control whether the family's voice data is being used to deliver more targeted ads.

You can visit settings on Amazon's website to review your Alexa voice history, and listen to and delete any stored recordings. Go to myactivity.google.com to similarly purge Google Home recordings.

And about 3 in 10 parents say voice-activated assistants are extremely or very helpful in accomplishing parenting tasks, such as making grocery lists, answering children's questions, or setting reminders.

More than 4 in 10 parents of 6- to 8-year olds say their children use the assistants for homework help.

Read more HERE

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