When it comes to my family’s digital privacy, I’m fairly strict. I don’t share my kids’ names online and I rarely post their pictures. So, when I ordered an Amazon Echo for our downstairs, my husband was shocked.
“You’re letting Amazon spy on us?” he asked.
“The kids already have Siri on their iPods.” I plugged in the Echo and snaked the cord behind the couch. “Alexa isn’t that different.”
Except of course, that Alexa is my digital Mary Poppins. She plays music when it’s time to clean up, she sets timers while I cook dinner, she forecasts the weekend weather, and most importantly — and this is the game-changer — Alexa does my nagging for me.
“I’m reminding you. Are you dressed for dance? Is your hair in a bun?”
“This is a reminder. It’s time to leave for gymnastics.”
“I’m reminding you. Have you brushed your teeth?”
“This is a reminder. It’s time to turn off the PS4.”
Admittedly, the first week we owned our Echo I overdid its programming reminders. My daughter didn’t mind, but my son was ready to chuck a pillow at Alexa every time she chirped. I agreed that it was annoying that Alexa repeated each reminder twice. I culled the list of reminders to make it less aggravating. Then, to be fair, I added reminders for myself.
“This is a reminder. It’s time to pick your daughter up from school.”
“I’m reminding you. Today is Tuesday. You need to clean the bathrooms.”
“This is a reminder. Go to the gym. Swimsuit season is coming.”
My son was right; Alexa could be a pain in the butt.
Still, between the Echo and the vibrating reminders I plugged into my FitBit, I’ve been able to put my mom-brain on autopilot. Instead of constantly watching the clock and double checking our schedule, I can fully focus on what I’m doing at the moment.
Three months later, we now own one Echo and two Dots. This means we can communicate from room to room like an intercom, and also play music throughout the house. With our Amazon Prime subscription, we also get Amazon Music. I can say, “Alexa, turn on ’90s alternative,” and Nirvana blasts the downstairs. When I go on a cleaning rampage I’ll say, “Alexa, play cardio dance music,” and it makes it a lot more fun to dust.
My daughter has a Dot in her room. She uses it to spell words for her when she writes in her journal, and to help her wind down at bedtime. She’ll say, “Alexa, help me fall asleep,” and the Dot will play a wide variety of white noise. She also enjoys saying, “Alexa, tell me a story,” and listening to short pieces of fiction. Another fun one is, “Alexa, open the magic door,” which launches into a virtual reality game.
Have I sacrificed my family’s privacy by succumbing to the digital assistant craze? Perhaps; but Alexa’s so supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that it’s worth it.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.