How should children deal with intelligent loudspeakers

Artificial intelligence in the nursery - legitimate concerns

We use cookies to improve your user experience. However, we need your permission for certain offers. You can revoke this at any time afterwards in our data protection declaration.

About the author

Christine Kammerer, political scientist M.A., alternative practitioner (psychotherapy), freelance journalist and trainer. Professional background: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Federal Agency for Political Education, German Child Protection Association.

by Christine Kammerer

© M.Dörr & M.Frommherz -
Artificial intelligence (AI) makes a lot possible. In addition to useful applications for various industries and professions, for example for teachers and schools, there are now numerous small tools for private individuals on the market. Spy software, for example. After the baby monitor, many parents are now discovering the smart little helpers as useful instruments for total monitoring of their offspring from the cradle until well into their teenage years. But AI can do a lot more: there are even apps that explain word for word to parents how to raise their children. And of course all of these applications need “food” in order to learn and continuously optimize their services: They want to be fed with data. Not least in view of the current scandals in connection with unscrupulous data collectors, but also IT companies that grant access to this data all too easily, the following questions must be examined from an educational perspective: What concerns are justified with regard to AI and how should parents, educators and educators deal with technological progress in the future?

Sweet, but also terrifying: Kuri and Smart Barbie

"Kuri" haunts the room like a little goblin. He always joins in "when he thinks he can feel an interesting moment in the nursery". The little robot records videos, "so that no important moment in the family history goes unrecorded". You can imagine Kuri roughly like a rolling Amazon Echo loudspeaker. It navigates through the apartment independently, can answer questions, play music, monitor its surroundings and even differentiate between certain people and pets.

An invisible spy in the nursery who constantly monitors adolescents? For many parents, this is a very reassuring idea. For others, and especially for educators and psychologists, it is a terrifying horror vision. A vision that is already tangibly real. In the form of networked toys such as “Smart Barbie”, for example. ToyTalk and Mattel, the companies working on the development of the smart doll, do not want to use the data that is collected for marketing purposes. At least that's what they promise. Hello Barbie is much more perfidious: the toy can “save, process, convert, transcribe and check recordings”. It remembers the child's preferences and whether they have siblings or pets, for example. All conversations recorded in the children's room are then uploaded to the cloud. There they can then be listened to undisturbed by the concerned parents.

This trend is also known as “big parenting”: Live images from the children's room are streamed onto the monitor in the office. GeoTags on smartphones reveal the whereabouts at any time.

Muse - an algorithm as a parenting assistant?

Muse is a kind of virtual supernanny. She sets new tasks for the parents every day, knows a large selection of games and has a wealth of advice on parenting for the most varied of approaches. From this she then uses her own logic to select questions for the parents such as “Do you believe in unconditional love?” Or “Does child X like to help with the household?” The answers give the program more and more information about its user and can continue to do so optimize. The recommendations are becoming more individual, so they are always better suited to parents and child.

Neuroscientist Vivienne Ming, who developed and programmed Muse, says: "We can literally predict how long a child will live, how happy they will be, how much they will earn." Ming has a mission. She wants to shape the characters of children around the world to turn them into happier and more complete people. She is obsessed with the idea that with the help of algorithms one can calculate and optimize a person's true potential. This is also the idea behind networked and intelligent learning toys: the more the child interacts with them, the more they learn. At least that's what smart marketing specialists want parents to believe.

Bottom line: we don't know what we're doing

What impact will AI have on child development? Will they actually learn more and better with it? The correct answer must be: We don't know. We only know that children do not become aware of it at all, and even adolescents only to a limited extent, when they are controlled, observed or even manipulated. And we know from various educational concepts that adolescents should always have their privacy. That means: You should simply be left to yourself and you should be allowed to play undisturbed. Without fear of intruders. And what are toys that record and analyze children's conversations other than intruders?

We also have no information on whether AI toys are beneficial for children's imaginations and their development in general. It is just as possible that they inhibit this and, in addition, even trigger negative behavioral patterns. The only thing that we can say with certainty is that what is now called “smart” is nowhere near as intelligent as the grandiose attribute would suggest: “I would not recommend it to parents,” says Graham Schafer. Professor of Cognitive Development from Reading University, on such toys and: "Right now they are part of the world of things companies are trying to market to parents and are essentially redundant or junk."


IM barbie

Kuri's blog

The digital child: well-educated thanks to artificial intelligence?

Your web presence just picked your next job

Aristotle: Children's room A.I. should help you with the education

Networked toys: artificial intelligence in children's rooms

How smart are connected toys?

Share article