Have you seen the new, so-called “smart toys” My Friend Cayla and the i-Que Robot? In case you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell – the toys use voice recognition technology and connect via Bluetooth to a mobile app in order to interact with children. Both the My Friend Cayla and the i-Que Robot ask personal questions such as school name, parents’ names, town, and more in order to have seemingly natural conversations with the children who use them.
See where I’m going with this? No? How about the fact that the speech to text technology used to create these “conversations” is from Nuance Communications, a company that sells voice biometric services to military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies. This type of online privacy violation sets the most vulnerable among us up to be the victims of predatory behavior. Is surveillance really the type of interaction we are hoping for with these “smart toys?” Is desensitizing our kids to surveilling and the notion that our “friends” can spy on us, record it and share that information the goal of giving these types of gifts? No? Then don’t.
Surely I am not the only one who sees a problem with even the most innocent aspect of these toys – the ask/answer sessions of “how do you make a cake” or “what’s your favorite movie?” being a poor substitute for actual human interaction. How about this holiday season if we just take the actual smart way out and unplug, bake a cake, make some cookies, read a story, color a picture, create with clay or take a walk with our kids instead?
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!