Technology is everywhere in homes these days, often providing children with unparalleled access to the internet and its content. Unfortunately, not everything on the internet is safe for kids, or anyone at all, as one alleged Alexa mistake recently revealed.
Alexa is the smart assistant provided by corporate megapower Amazon, intended to compete with the like of Siri and Google’s Assistant. Amazon’s assistant can be used for a wide swath of tasks and activities, even allowing gamers to play Skyrim on Alexa. However, one challenge offered by the device could have ended in disaster and tragedy.
According to Kristin Livdahl, she and her 10-year-old daughter were enjoying some time together looking for physical challenges to do to pass the time while it rained outside. Livdahl says it started out normally, but when her daughter asked Amazon’s Alexa for a new challenge, the one it provided was all but safe or amusing. Alexa recommended inserting a power plug part-way into a wall outlet, and then touching a penny to one of the exposed prongs.
Thankfully, according to Kristin, her daughter was too smart to do such a thing, and the mother was also present at the time. Following the delivery of the proposed ‘challenge,’ Kristin took to Twitter to report and complain about the issue. Amazon has since responded, claiming that it has updated Alexa so that it will no longer recommend this challenge.
It’s likely that Alexa was simply pulling information from the web, and simply lacks the necessary abilities to judge whether or not the information is safe and worthy of serving up. Like many other recent dangerous trends, the so-called penny challenge gained popularity on social media platforms like TikTok. Inserting a penny or other metal objects into a power outlet or making contact with something that’s plugged in could lead to electrocution, sparks, fires, or damage to the electrical wiring. Needless to say, it isn’t something anyone should attempt, and hopefully no one else has received the suggestion and actually carried it out.
While the methods of gaining access to the internet have changed since the early days, one thing that hasn’t changed is that the wealth of information available isn’t always appropriate or safe for kids. Scams on the internet are everywhere, and finding the dividing line between legitimate information and that which is dangerous, inadvisable, or downright false can be difficult even for adult internet users, let alone digital algorithms or children. While this particular problem has been resolved, it’s always a good idea for parents to keep a close eye on their kids when using devices like these, no matter how child-friendly they may be marketed as being.