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Peter Kahn discusses how to maintain quality human connections with the advent of virtual and robotic assistants in a USA Today article.

'Alexa, are you turning my kid into a jerk?' Virtual assistants don't care if kids use good manners.

Three years after Amazon Echo launched as a frivolous oddity, its maker now plans to put Alexa inside smart phones, refrigerators, vacuums and Ford cars. The Alexafication of all things places digital attendants everywhere at our beck and call, and those of our kids, too.

Last year, a San Francisco dad named Hunter Walk posted a blog titled, “Amazon Echo Is Magical. It’s Also Turning My Kid Into an Asshole.” Walk, a former YouTube product manager, saw in Alexa’s subservience a potential worry for parents: If a kid learned she could order Alexa around without so much as a please or thank you, why not a person?

Experts at the crossroads of pediatrics, psychology and A.I. say there’s a lot we don’t know about how virtual assistants might affect young, developing minds, but parents can take proactive steps to help children better understand and interact with humanoid helpers.

Peter Kahn, a psychologist at the University of Washington, conducted some of the research on how children perceive robots. Parents shouldn’t worry that their tyke will treat a classmate like they do Alexa, Kahn said, at least in any direct way: “It’s more complicated than that.”

Read the entire article here.