We asked the HuffPost Parents Facebook community about Amazon Echo (and the voice assistant affectionately known as Alexa) and Google Home (home of the Google Assistant) to see if these devices have made any aspects of everyday parenting easier. The responses poured in.
“We are pretty tech averse and were hesitant to get an Alexa, but it has been SO GREAT for the toddlers!” said Samantha Ferguson, who uses it instead of a TV to entertain her kids with stories, play music for family dance parties, and queue up podcasts.
“If Google Home could only figure out how to pour milk into cereal, it’d be worth it’s weight in gold!” Nicole Trinidad Padilla wrote, noting that her kids use Google to set timers for reading and taking the puppy out, to turn lights on and off, to find answers to creative questions, and much more.
Yet some critics worry that these devices might condition kids to be rude, discourage critical thinking and replace human interaction with artificial exchanges. There have also been concerns about spying, data usage ― and little kids using voice assistants to order toys and treats for themselves.
In response to the criticism, both companies have introduced politeness features encouraging kids to use their manners in Alexa and Google Assistant interactions. Parents can also disable direct transactions or enable security features to stop kids from making purchases. And both devices offer parental control functions meant to honor bedtimes, filter out explicit music and recognize individual voices. The two smart speakers also let users see what vocal recordings they’ve logged and delete them if they wish.
Ultimately, it’s up to individual families to decide if Google Home or Amazon Echo are right for their households. Of course, Alexa and the Google Assistant don’t replace actual parenting, but they can help pick up the slack and keep the family organized when the daily grind gets overwhelming.
Here are 13 ways Amazon Echo and Google Home can make life easier for moms and dads, according to real parents.
1. Tell A Fun Story
Parents and kids can say, “Alexa, tell me a story” or “Hey Google, tell me a story,” and their devices will launch into creative tales. Alexa offers kid-friendly stories like “Puppy Love,” “Batter Up,” and “New Pet,” while Google Home features options like “The-Not-So-Scaredy Cat” and “The Tired Alien.”
“I asked my Google Home to read a story to my kids. She began telling a story about a fairy godmother. My kids literally sat for 45 minutes listening to the story. I got so much done during that time,” Sophie Yasin told HuffPost.
Echo users can ask their virtual assistant to read them audiobooks from Audible, and Google Home users can do the same with audiobooks they purchase on Google Play.
2. Set Helpful Timers And Reminders
Both Amazon Echo and Google Home let families set timers and reminders for all sorts of things ― from time-outs and screen time to reading and homework sessions to morning alarms. The virtual assistants can remind parents to complete their own tasks, too,
“The reminders alone are worth it. I set it to tell my kids when to head out to the school bus, when to take their medicine, when to start their homework, when to get ready for soccer, when to get in the shower before bedtime, etc,” said Carrie Kindt. “With four kids, I felt frantic trying to keep everyone on schedule, and Alexa completely alleviated that. She’s my ‘mother’s helper.’”
Parents can also use the timer feature to engage in some trickery. “Have your kid ask Alexa to set a timer for 10 minutes. The parent can go into the app and change it to five minutes without [the] kid knowing,” Jamie Rosemary explained.
Alexa also has an “Out the Door” skill, which turns the morning routine into a game in which kids have to complete missions like “get dressed,” “brush your teeth” and “put your shoes on.”
3. Play Kid-Friendly Music
Families can ask Alexa or the Google Assistant to play a specific song, albums, artists, playlists and more to start an impromptu dance party or have a dinnertime DJ.