January 27, 2022

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Tech Tuesday: How to keep your kids safe with voice-activated tech


FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2017, file photo, Amazon Echo and Echo Plus devices, behind, sit near illuminated Echo Button devices during an event announcing several new Amazon products by the company in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – One mom is claiming that her family’s Alexa encouraged her child to try a potentially dangerous Tik Tok challenge.

When Kristin Livdahl and her ten-year-old daughter Ellie asked Alexa for a challenge:

“We had been doing some YouTube challenges where it was a physical education teacher had made some challenges for kids to do things, like balancing a broomstick on your hand and your chin. And she was just looking for something like that,” said Kristin.

The devices answer: suggesting the so-called outlet challenge, a dangerous trend popularized on Tik Tok.

“What it actually told her to do was to plug like a phone charger partway in and then touch the exposed prongs with a penny. I was actually right there in the room with her and I just kind of was so freaked out. I’m like no Alexa, no, stop!” said Kristin.

Amazon said Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information.

“As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it,” said Amazon.

Tik Tok has taken down any posts with the hashtag #outletchallenge, but some videos like this one are still visible on the platform.

Experts say it’s important to monitor your child’s interactions with voice-activated technology.

“What that highlights is that no tech is perfect, and there are loopholes. Before you let your child play with this amazing piece of intelligent tech, whatever it is, research what parental controls exist for that device, Figure out how to implement them. Then plug it in, then set it up then let them play knowing that you have some peace of mind,” said Titania Jordan, Chief Parent Officer at BARK technologies.

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