Yes – we are now officially an Amazon Echo family. You’ve seen the Echo advertised on Amazon, right? It’s a sort of speaker type thing you can shout at to do things for you. Welcome to the future!
Amazon Echo Kids …
Of course, the kids LOVE our Amazon Echo.
Not a moment goes by without one of us shouting at poor Alexa, like she’s a deaf elderly relative.
Alexa. ALEXA! Play KATIE PERRY ROAR. ALEXA! Turn UP!
Alexa. STOP. TURN OFF KATIE PERRY ROAR. RESUME HEART RADIO!
Sometimes, Alexa makes bad decisions and we have to tell her off. She is very robotically unoffended our insults (answering a bland, ‘That’s not very nice to say’), which makes her the perfect fifth member of our family.
There are a few downsides to our new friend, but let’s share the love first. Here is why the kids love our Amazon Echo:
- Amazon Echo gives kids POWER. So they stop asking me to do things for them.
Any sensible parent knows it’s important to make kids independent. Why? Because then they stop asking you to do things for them, and you can read your book and eat chocolate chip cookies in peace.
Yes, there are nurturing parents out there, the ones who hate the thought of their kids growing up, the ones who always want their kids to need them.
But surely you’re not one of those.
As soon as MY kids can do things for themselves, I can happily tick a job off my long list. What a joyous day it was when I discovered my six-year old could make her own breakfast AND liked doing it!
With the Amazon Echo, kids have the POWER to put on music, to find out what the weather is like, insult a robot voice without being laser gunned .. etc.
So ALEXA! Play DISNEY SONGS!
Amazon Echo be praised!
- Amazon Echo stops kids looking at screens
There are so many screens around these days.
Yes, I’m aware Alexa isn’t a real human person (although I often shout at her like she is), but we do TALK to her. There’s no craned, bent over neck, tap, tap, tap on a flashing screen. The kids just ask stuff with their lovely little voices.
Actually, perhaps talk is the wrong word. Shout. The kids shout at our Amazon Echo. But it’s some sort of interaction, right? Building their linguistic abilities? Or something? It just seems healthier than a screen. I’m pretty sure it is.
- Amazon Echo improves kids musical knowledge. Sort of.
Here is a joyous thing about Amazon Echo. If you’re a member of Amazon Prime (and who isn’t right? Free shipping!), you get access to a TON of awesome music. Not just one good song, and a load of shit stuff, AKA Netflix. NO. Did I mention there’s Katie Perry on there? We’ve heard a lot of her.
And for every five times the kids request Katie Perry Roar, they ask for something new. Something FRESH, man. Which means we get to try out playlists like ‘1990s indie road trip’ or ‘1980s power ballads’. Then we go back to Katie Perry again.
- Amazon Echo lets us play games like a REAL family!
We have a shelf load (that’s SHELF, not the other thing) of board games. We’re too lazy to take them out. That’s right. The act of walking across the room and opening a box is too much for us. You have kids, right? You understand that? We’re F-ing exhausted!
So now we can just call out: ‘Alexa, play Would You Rather?’ And hey presto! A fun family game. Admittedly, we have to explain some of the questions to our youngest. They’re a teeny bit R-rated. But you know, so is our language.
Seriously, it makes me feel like we’re a lovely happy family from the 1950s. Look at us, sitting together and interacting, laughing, having a conversation. We’re not staring at a TV!
- Easter Eggs on Amazon Echo – Kids LOVE them!
Oh yes, like any good technological entertainment device, Alexa has EASTER EGGS! What does that mean? Well, if you love computer games (I used to, before I had kids and lost my brain), you’ll know that sometimes they hide some cute little bonus somewhere – something fun, but not vital to solving the game, like a way to change the characters colour or gain extra lives. That sort of thing.
Well, the Amazon Echo has those. Oh yes!
You can say things like, ‘Alexa, may the force be with you.’
And she replies, like you’ve asked a REAL question. Not always. Sometimes she asks you what the F you’re taking about (‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that’), but it’s all part of the fun, finding out what she responds to.
There’s a big list of Easter eggs here: https://turbofuture.com/consumer-electronics/200-Amusing-Amazon-Echo-Easter-Eggs
but she’s got LOADS more. Would love to know if you find any funny ones. Tweet me!
- Amazon Alexa apps
Don’t sue me Amazon (or Apple, for that matter) – I know Alexa apps are technically called ‘skills’. But most people familiar with iPhones will still think of these as apps, so I may as well term them as such.
Yes, the Amazon Echo (kids, get excited here!) has lots of FREE skills / apps that do things like find your iphone, tell you travel distances, play games, read stories and so on.
The kids have a LOT of fun looking through these, working out which ones they can play with etc.
You can find them here:
Amazon Echo downsides:
It’s sort of obvious that Alexa has a bit of an agenda to lead you into Audible and the Amazon sales site. This can get a bit annoying, as if you wanted to shop or listen to an audio book, you would say so clearly.
And speaking of Audible – it’s pretty cool that you can listen to audio books through the Amazon Echo. BUT! At present, it seems to lack the functionality to choose different books etc. It will only play the book you’re currently reading, unless I’ve missed a set of instructions somewhere (which is entirely possible.)
Sometimes, when Alexa hears lots of different voices she gets confused – especially if they’re kid’s voices. She seems to get used to everyone eventually, but definitely has a preference for adult voices. Which I guess is probably how it should be. Now I think about it, this probably isn’t a downside …
All in all we love our new Amazon Echo. I’ve bought one for my parents and sister this Christmas, so we MUST like it. Or really dislike our relatives …
Here are some links to the current prices for Amazon Echo (and PS – I think they’re doing them REALLY cheaply at the moment, because there are lots of advantages for Amazon if you have one in your home).
Suzy K Quinn is the author of new motherhood fiction, the Bad Mother’s Diary.