Yes I know. It seems a little counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Bring a “smart device” into your home, and it will reduce the time your kids spend in front of another device.
But surprisingly, it’s true.
Husband got me an Alexa for last Christmas. I actually wasn’t really that happy about it. I mean – it’s not really a present for ME (darling wife who has given me SO MUCH). It’s more like:
“oh we have talked about getting a blue-tooth speaker for the kitchen, so here, I’ve bought this OTT smart-device for our house – OH, yes but it IS for ‘YOU’, for Christmas!!! Happy Christmas Babe”.
Hmmmm. I wasn’t overly impressed…. mostly because I wasn’t all that keen on having Alexa listen in on our lives… I wasn’t 100% decided about whether I wanted a smart device linked into our house’s wifi.
And I didn’t even know how to use it properly. Feeling old.
(Literally I still really don’t know. And I still find it a little weird that we can just say “Alexa, look up the weather forecast for next week” and she’ll do it… Jetsons anyone?)
But. I DID marry an IT entrepreneur who loves technology, so I decided to embrace the 21st century and give this Alexa a whirl.
And the surprising side-effect is that the kids LOVE IT.
(I refuse to call Alexa “her” – it remains an “IT” in my house and in this article).
And it’s SUCH a good distraction from screen time.
(my kids are six, almost five, and two, by the way)
- Fart jokes: Alexa knows fart jokes . Surprise surprise that this is number one on the list!
- Fart songs: Yes, they also ask Alexa to play fart songs. (Sometimes these first two get out of hand and I put Alexa away for a “holiday” for a few days).
- Knock Knock jokes: That obsession that kids go through with Knock-Knock jokes?! Yeah well after Mum and Dad have had enough (parents – relate-able?!) then Alexa can handle that in our house
- Choose your own music: If they’ve heard a song from school or friends, they come home and ask Alexa to play it. Sometimes it keeps her guessing for ages (she doesn’t really understand Kiwi-accents very well). And then they have massive dance parties to these songs. Good times!
- Math: They like to test Alexa with “very hard maths” e.g. “Hey Alexa, what does 23 + 57 equal?” Yes, that is their definition of hard at this age.
- Timers: We now use Alexa for our kitchen timer. And each boy loves being the one to put the timer on for eggs in the morning, or for getting dressed time, tidy up time, etc etc etc.
- It keeps us all off MY phone: because they can use Alexa for music, we don’t really have to use my phone. Which is good because then they don’t ask to go on it, or try to help themselves (and take a screed of selfies while they’re at it). And I don’t end up being distracted so much by quickly checking social media or emails after putting music on (work in progress).
Reading back through this list makes me reflect on how it makes me sounds like a terribly distracted parent.
Why don’t I sit and do the maths with my kids myself?!
Why don’t I encourage them telling knock knock jokes to each other?!
Well the answer to that lies in parental jadedness. When you’re dealing with it for hours on end, it’s nice to have a break.
And that’s one of the reasons why other families might turn the TV on. To get a break from the constant knock-knock/fart jokes/put on some music/ask 1001 questions MUM MUM MUM demands.
But as you’ll know by now, we try to limit screen time in our house. And it’s been an interesting reflection on the role that this Alexa has played in that as a result.
Perhaps, in the absence of our communities being as linked and supportive as days gone by, with extended family being around more to herald the excess of knock-knock jokes and give Mums a break, then unfortunately Alexa is standing in.
It pains me to write that. But I can’t but help think that it’s true to some extent.
And I’m OK with admitting it.
Parenting is a hard, HARD job. And I’m so adamant that parents embrace all the help we can get. Alexa is a tool that we use in our house that, surprisingly, has turned into a handy parenting tool.
Some parents use screens. We choose not to. Alexa is enough, for now.
How do other parents find their kids interacting with Alexa? Are you a fan? Or no?
Let me know!