Should I let my kids yell at Alexa?

Should I let my kids yell at Alexa?

This great question came up in a Wildflowers moms group, and the more I have thought about it, the more I think the answer really does matter.

Just last night, this was driven home to me once again. After a long day spent on a Project That Will Not End, my husband and I stopped into Krogers to pick up some groceries. As we approached the self-checkout, I was tired and admittedly a bit (…) irritable. Krogers has replaced their self-checkout machine script recently, and more than just one person (read: it’s not just me!) has commented that the voice is downright rude. So even when I’m in a Mary Poppins mood (Julie Andrews, not the P.L. Travers acerbic original), I brace myself in order not to react.

But last night that wasn’t enough. When the impatient female voice in the machine said again,Put the Item IN THE BAG!” and the item was again already IN THE BAG, my irritation rose to new heights. Doing my best not to sift particles of my frustration onto my husband – and succeeding only partially – I imagined the letter I would write to Krogers about themselves. I confess that on one occasion, I envisioned meeting this “woman” face-to-face and helping her rearrange her attitude. Because there you are, trying to give these people money, and you’re being chastised by a machine with nobody to set straight!

Well, as you can see, I have an opinion.

Human beings react to the content and the tone of voice of speakers around them. Research (Barbara Frederickson) has shown that generating positive emotion increases people’s capacity for creativity and accomplishment – and the opposite occurs when negative emotion is generated. It follows that the way we talk to one another; the way we talk, period – creates an emotional climate that affects everyone, including the speaker. Even though Unrepentant Woman of the Checkout was a recorded voice, the environment that voice created unquestionably put me in a worse mood as I left the store than I was when I entered, i.e. I now owe my husband a homemade raspberry schaumtorte :).

Beyond the impact on other people of rudeness and bossiness, habits are created by the way we – and our kids — speak to others and by the way they hear others around them speaking. Further, the self-image of the speaker is potentially affected negatively by practicing rudeness and a bullying tone – and, by the same token, constructively affected by speaking positively and assertively.

Is it possible for kids to jokingly be little generals with their virtual servants? Yes, of course, and humor does generate positive emotion. But in general, I’ve concluded that a steady diet of tyrannical playacting is less helpful than harmful.

So – should children be allowed to be rude to Alexa?

I vote “Not routinely.” How about you?

Question for future thought: Should kids have virtual servants?

I’d  like very much to hear your experiences and thoughts about this topic. You can share them here on my Facebook Page.


Image Copyright:’>sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo