In 2022, 333 million households used smart speakers.
To ensure you and your family have safe and secure interactions with your smart speaker we have gathered information on the main features and potential risks on the most popular speakers below.
Children and young people may already be familiar with the voices of Siri, Google or Alexa. It is important to take some time out to explain what they are, the risks and what they can do to stay safe.
What are the risks of Smart Speakers?
There has been growing privacy concerns surrounding smart speakers because they record and store what you say to them – read tips below on how to delete these recordings.
Some people may use smart speakers to ask personal questions, which other users may be able to see.
Smart speakers can listen in on conversations so make sure you know how to mute the microphone.
Smart speakers can be set to automatically purchase products and can alert you to incoming deliveries – be mindful of this when ordering surprise or personal items online.
Some devices can offer to ‘learn your voice’ – this is not always necessary so limiting its learning may give you better privacy.
Despite human names for some smart speakers designed to build trust, children and young people should understand that they are interacting with a non-human interface which can sometimes get things wrong.
Amazon Alexa is a widely used smart speaker in the UK with 78% of households using this device. To interact with Alexa, users can say ‘Alexa’. There is also an‘Amazon Echo Show’. This device has a screen and allows users to download apps, make video calls, and stream content.
Users can order products online, play music, set reminders, and get answers to any questions they might have. Amazon also has a children’s version called the Echo Dot Kids Edition which filters inappropriate words and content.
You can turn off in-app voice purchasing or set up a code to prevent children from ordering products from Amazon.
You can easily restrict access via parental controls to inappropriate content, like songs with swear words by creating an age-appropriate account for your children.
Turn off or restrict ‘drop-in’. This feature allows users to drop into a video call with someone else’s Echo.
Activate the ‘Do Not Disturb’ option. This would be most suitable for when your family is sleeping.
On the Echo Show, you can turn the camera and microphone off by using the button on the device.
You can ask Alexa to delete everything that has been said today. If you want to delete data older than 1 day, simply do so via the App, where you can also configure settings to delete voice recordings every 3 or 18 months automatically.
For guides on how to configure settings on the platform visit the Amazon Device Support Hub
Google released the Nest (originally called Google Home) in 2017. It has similar features to the Amazon Echo. Since launching, Google now offers 4 different speakers including the Google Nest Mini and the Nest Audio.
The Nest Hub and Next Hub Max have screens and are Google’s rival to the Amazon Echo Show. Users can use these devices to make video calls, download apps and stream content via Netflix and other platforms.
You can initiate an interaction with this speaker by simply saying “Hey Google”.
What Parental Restrictions Does the Nest Have?
- Users can set up Family Link. This is done by setting up another account for your child. This will require another Android device but will be controlled from yours. Your child’s voice will be added to your Nest.
Make sure to use Google’s Digital Wellbeing tool. This allows users to set up filters for music, video, and assistant queries.
You can turn off Google’s Pay Assistant to prevent any unwanted purchases.
Just like Alexa, you can delete all voice recordings via the Google Assistant app. You can also adjust settings to delete voice recordings every 3 or 18 months automatically.
Apple HomePod and HomePod Mini
HomePod is Apple’s very own smart speaker that uses Siri. Siri can help users with a range of tasks such as setting reminders, listening to music, and making purchases. Users can interact with Siri by saying ‘Hey Siri”.
What Parental Restrictions Does the HomePod Have?
- You can stop your child from accessing explicit content.
- Users might also want to lock personal requests. This is what Apple calls the ability to send and read texts, add reminders, and create notes. This will prevent anyone from sending messages from your Apple device.
- You can prevent children from making in-app purchases.
Remember: Users can delete their voice recordings with Apple’s HomePod. For more information on how to do this, visit here and follow the guidelines for HomePod. It’s important to note that Apple will keep recordings from your speaker for up to 2 years, but they will not be assigned to you as an individual.
Facebook Portal is a smart camera and speaker in one, which is similar to the Amazon Echo Show. This device is activated when a user says ‘Hey Portal’, to which Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa will respond.
The Portal has a range of 4 devices. 3 of them are similar to tablets, and 1 acts as a camera for video calls and uses your TV as a screen.
Facebook Portal allows users to make encrypted instant video calls on Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger via an AI camera that automatically follows you around the room.
This device can also be used to stream content, download apps, and surf the web whilst also offering many of the same features as other smart speakers.
What Parental Restrictions Does the Facebook Portal Have?
Because users have to be over the age of 13 (if they are using a Facebook), Facebook does not offer control settings for children under this age.
Users can place PIN codes on accounts to ensure nothing happens without their permission.
You can set a screen lock on the Facebook Portal, promoting security and ensuring that children and young people in your care do not use it without your permission.
You can disable the microphone and camera with a switch on all devices.
The portal includes a small slide that is used to cover the camera, for extra privacy.
Facebook Portal will store data on how you use the device and includes audio files. You can delete this when you like by following these instructions.