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Amazon Echo: A product to be worried about or not?

Amazon product concerns parents as it comes without necessary etiquette

Amazon Echo. Image source Wikimedia commons

You shouldn’t worry if you forget your please and thank you. Alexa will put up with just about anything with tolerance. But while artificial intelligence technology can blow past such indignities, parents are still irked by their kids’ poor manners when interacting with Alexa, the assistant that lives inside the Amazon Echo.

“I’ve found my kids pushing the virtual assistant further than they would push a human,” says Avi Greengart, a tech analyst and father of five who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey. “[Alexa] never says ‘That was rude’ or ‘I’m tired of you asking me the same question over and over again.’” Perhaps she should, he thinks.

Alexa app. Image source Wikimedia commons
Alexa app. Image source Wikimedia commons

When Amazon released its internet-connected speaker in 2014, the world was puzzled. It was able to do work in a smart home by adding events to your calendar, summon an Uber, even tell knock-knock jokes. It became a very curious design. Google and Apple is reportedly designing their own version powered by Google home and Siri respectively.

Mimicking their parents, they quickly discover that if they start a sentence with “Alexa,” the speaker will perk up and (for the most part) do as they say. Amazon didn’t keep children in mind during the designing. It becomes child friendly even when the child does not know reading or any such commands.

Some of the questions Alexa can be asked are:

  • Alexa, tell me a knock-knock joke.
  • Alexa, how do you spell forest?
  • Alexa, what’s 17 times 42?

The commands given are usually simple and straightforward but doesn’t exactly reward niceties like “please.” For parents trying to drill good manners into their children, listening to their kids boss Alexa around can be of great concern. “One of the responsibilities of parents is to teach your kids social graces,” says Greengart, “and this is a box you speak to as if it were a person who does not require social graces.” It’s this combination that worries Hunter Walk, a tech investor in San Francisco. In a blog post, he described the Amazon Echo as “magical” while expressing fears it’s “turning our daughter into a raging asshole.”

Hanover Kurzweil, who lives in San Francisco, says Alexa had a hard time comprehending her four-year-old son when he tried summoning the speaker with “Awexa.” But after a month or two of working on his pronunciation, his l’s started ringing clear as a bell, she says.

Apple's Siri. Image source Wikimedia commons
Apple’s Siri. Image source Wikimedia commons

Not all parents are so worried about the implications of their kids’ mannerisms when interacting with a speaker, though. This is, after all, a “can that sits on a table,” says Holly Petersen, a mother of two who lives in Minnesota. They find ‘unintentional aggressiveness’ in the tone of her command. Though Petersen believes her children, ages five and seven, know the difference between bot and human. “It is important for my kids to be able to empathize with people and read emotions off people and be polite with people,” she says. But “Alexa doesn’t have feelings, and I don’t want her over-personified.”

Still, with the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence, a debate is emerging around how humans should treat bots. Mortensen argues that “you are worse off if you treat your machines in a demeaning kind of way.” Mortensen created the calendar-scheduling assistant called x.ai. He doesn’t correct them though since they “are beyond the age of where I teach them decency and courtesy.”

But other parents haven’t given up. Manu Kumar, a father of two and founder of investment firm K9 Ventures in Palo Alto, California, has attempted one tactic with his four-year-old with limited success. “I have told my son that if he doesn’t say ‘thank you’ or ‘please’ that Alexa will stop listening to him.”  He too believes that what matters is the importance of being nice. He says that if Alexa doesn’t care about how we talk to her, other people around us are going to experience how we interact with it.

People are longing for a kid or family mode where Alexa responds only after hearing the keyword. Of course, that would mean parents, too, would be beholden to these courtesies. Such a mode “would probably be good for us,” muses Hanover Kurzweil.

No matter what, an Amazon representative declined to agree to what these parents have to say. She also wrote an email saying “I think I’d like to use that with my daughter :)”
-by Vrushali Mahajan, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter-Vrushali Mahajan 
Related articles:


  1. I personally believe that kids should say their pleases and thank you even if it is to a bot.It is how we behave to others that show the world who we are.I share the parent’s concerns.

  2. There should be a difference when bots talk to the children and when parents talk to them. You cannot expect the bots to parent your child in your desired way. Therefore you should be able to identify when the child needs you

  3. the parents need to be more careful in this regard. they need to make sure that their kids know the difference when they are speaking to a robot and when they are speaking to a human.


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Next Story

WHO Releases New Guidelines to Fight Global Childhood Obesity

India ranks second in the number of obese children in the world with China taking the first spot

Obesity exposes an individual to multiple health problems. VOA

New Delhi, October 12, 2017:  In 2016, an Official data in had revealed that over 41 million children below the age of 5 were affected by obesity. Without due attention and efficient treatment, they are likely to remain obese throughout their lives, with an increased risk of developing a host of diseases and physical and psychological consequences like anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even premature death.

In view of an escalating number of people constantly coming under the ambush of obesity, and with childhood obesity becoming a cause of worry globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines on October 4, emphasizing the growing importance of healthcare experts and professionals, underlining their positive role in helping kids and teenagers fight the global menace.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined as ‘excess adipose tissue’. In other words, it is a body-weight disorder involving excessive body fat that exposes an individual to multiple health problems.  In case a person’s body-weight is nearly 20 per cent higher than it should be, he is considered obese.

Excessive body fat that exposes an individual to multiple health problems. Pixabay

There are different ways to calculate excess adipose tissue, the most common one being the Body Mass Index.

Index :

Overweight – BMI greater than or equal to 25

Obesity – BMI greater than or equal to 30

Global Data

According to data obtained by WHO, one half of all overweight children or obese children lived in Asia, and one-quarter of the total obese children lived in Africa.

According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in June, India ranks second in the number of obese children in the world with China taking the first spot.

The global menace continues to rise rapidly in low and middle-income countries.

Also Read: Obesity leads to 13 types of Cancer, including that of Pancreas and Esophagus: Study

WHO Guidelines

The new report released by WHO on October 4 is titled ‘Assessing and Managing Children at Primary Healthcare Facilities to Prevent Overweight and Obesity in the Context of the Double Burden of Malnutrition’.

The report provides guidelines and updates for the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI). The guidelines attempt to confine the spread of childhood obesity from expanding further, and prescribe undertaking proper assessment of dietary habits along with weight and height measurements. It also recommends dieting and proper counseling by healthcare experts.

Recommendations by WHO

  • WHO has recommended that primary healthcare facilities should be made available to all children below the age of 5 years and infants. These should include measurement of both weight and height of the children to determine their weight-for height and nutritional status as previously defined by WHO child growth standards.
  • For children and infants identified as overweight, healthcare experts should provide counseling to parents and caregivers on nutrition and physical activity, which includes creating awareness about healthy practices like exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continuing the practice until 2 years or more.
  • WHO also prescribes that an appropriate management plan should be devised to counter the menace in obese children. This can be developed by a trained health worker at primary healthcare facilities, or local hospitals.

Healthy Eating Tips to Fight Obesity

Here are a few healthy eating tips that will not only help you maintain a healthy weight but will also prove be be beneficial for your metabolism, physical strength and general well-being,

  • Refrain from unnecessary indulgences or random snacking and encourage healthy snacking choices like popcorns, yogurt, fruits, etc.
  • Reduce your sugar intake to less than 10 per cent of the total calories for an individual with normal weight.

Obese and binge eating junk food? Red Flag! Pixabay

  • Consume a gracious serving of seasonal vegetables and fruits everyday that are rich in soluble and insoluble fibres, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  • Make healthy food selections- include whole grain products, avoid excessive use of oil and salt and refrain from processed or packaged food.
  • A balanced diet must be complimented with regular exercise to counter unnecessary weight gain

– prepared by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala


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More Than 5 Million Users Have Now Downloaded Google’s Digital Payment App ‘Tez’

"Tez" app works in partnership with four Banks -- Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and State Bank of India -- to facilitate the processing of payments across over 50 UPI-enabled banks

Within 24 hours of 'Tez' being launched, Google saw nearly 1.8 crore gross merchandise volume (GMV) done with over four lakh active users. pixabay

New Delhi, October 11, 2017 : Google’s digital payment app ‘Tez’ that was launched in India on September 18 has been downloaded five million times on Play Store.

Within 24 hours of ‘Tez’ being launched, Google saw nearly 1.8 crore gross merchandise volume (GMV) done with over four lakh active users.

Built on the Indian government-supported Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Tez allows users, free of charge, to make small or big payments straight from their bank accounts.

According to the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), the number of transactions on UPI has crossed three crore in September.

Also read A Step Towards Digital India- Google Launches Digital Payment App ‘Tez’ in India

The number of transactions on UPI platform increased to 3.07 crore in September as against 1.66 crore in August — an increase of 85.32 per cent.

Of the 3.07 crore transactions, BHIM’s share was 76.03 lakh — a market share of nearly 24.7 per cent.

“Tez” app works in partnership with four Banks — Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and State Bank of India — to facilitate the processing of payments across over 50 UPI-enabled banks.

The app was built for India, working on the vast majority of the country’s smartphones and is available in English and seven Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. (IANS)

Next Story

Con man in Delhi Duped Amazon for over Rs. 50 Lakh; Arrested by Delhi Police for Fraud

Shivam, a resident of north-west Delhi’s Tri Nagar, holds a degree in hotel management. However, he chose to use all his management skills to con the commercial giant, Amazon

Amazon logo. Wikimedia

New Delhi, October 11, 2017 : Leading e-commerce portal Amazon was taken for a ride by a 21-year-old youth who is said to have duped the company for over 50 lakh.

As per the police, the accused, identified as Shivam Chopra, bought over 166 expensive mobile phones via the online e-commerce store Amazon and consequently demanded refunds claiming he had received an empty box.

Shivam, a resident of north-west Delhi’s Tri Nagar, holds a degree in hotel management. However, he chose to use all his management skills to con the commercial giant, Amazon.

A complaint registered this year on behalf of Amazon Seller Services Private Limited first raised eyebrows in June when it was revealed that refunds had been claimed for as many as 166 mobile phones that had been ordered between April and May, on the claims that the delivery packages were empty. Suspicion gathered momentum when it was further revealed that payments for all these 166 mobiles were made through gift cards.

Allegedly, Shivam would use different customer accounts (reports suggest he used 48 different accounts) to place orders of expensive phones on Amazon and would provide the portal with a false address. He would then speak with the delivery associate and collect his order at a mutually decided place within the locality. Consequently, Shivam would then place complaints with Amazon, claiming that he had received an empty package and would demand a refund.

Subsequently, refunds were initiated in the form on gift cards.

ALSO READ Indian-origin Magician charged with multiple counts of helping others to fraudulently obtain money in Singapore

Following an enquiry, a case was registered with the Delhi Police in August.

The accused was then identified with the help of Amazon’s delivery persons, and the locals and by tracing the multiple numbers that were used to place the orders and Shivam was arrested on October 6.

According to the police, Shivam allegedly also purchased 150 pre-activated SIM cards to place the orders from different numbers. His accomplice in the con, Sachin Jain, has also been arrested, who helped provide him the SIM cards.

As per a report by PTI, upon investigation, the Delhi Police recovered 19 mobile phones from Shivam’s house. It was revealed that he had sold all other devices to buyers in the notorious Gaffar Market, or on the online marketplace OLX. The police also recovered Rs 12 lakh in cash, 40 bank passbooks and cheques from his house.

An Amazon India spokesperson later thanks ed the Delhi police for their services in an official statement and added, “We continue to work closely with the Delhi Police and thank them for all their efforts in the investigation.”

An ordinary guy who duped an e-commerce website and claimed refunds running into lakhs of rupees – the case is not a first of its kind. Previously, con-men had been arrested for duping rival e-commerce website FlipKart. However, what is peculiar is how no action has been taken to keep such frauds at bay and these cases continue to suffer.