We tend to race forward with technological developments without considering the moral and practical implications. When scientists were setting up to test the first nuclear weapons in Nevada during World War II, there were serious concerns the bombs might ignite the atmosphere ending all life on the planet – and they went ahead with the test! While not an end of the world scenario, technological leaps, and bounds in the field of Internet of Things devices are raising a number of interesting and perhaps troubling questions from a COPPA and parenting perspective in general.
What role should technology play in parenting? Some might say we’ve blown by such a question given the role television and computers play in the lives of children, but a new product on the market is raising more direct questions. At the 2017 Consumers Electronic Show, Mattel is demoing Aristotle. Aristotle is an Internet of Things device similar to Amazon Echo, but designed to be used by parents to assist with children. If a baby starts crying while a parent is out of the room, the device can sing a lullaby, alert the parent, turn down the lights, and take other steps to comfort the child.
Aristotle raises a very simple question. How far are we willing to go in shuffling off parent responsibilities to our technology?
While Aristotle is hardly an advanced device, it isn’t difficult to see a future where tech becomes sufficiently advanced to act as a nanny per se. An interesting depiction of this scenario occurs in the television show “Humans,” which every parent should watch. In the show, the robotic nanny acts as a homemaker while both parents work full time. It isn’t difficult to see the emotional attachment the children have with the nanny; an attachment that appears far stronger than with the parents. Here’s the trailer for the show, which is highly recommended.
I’m not suggesting tech should play no role in the parenting of children. I’m not even arguing a fully functional robotic nanny isn’t a good idea. What I am arguing is that for once in our existence as a species, it might make sense to discuss the implications of this technology before implementing it. With many experts of the opinion the failure of the traditional family structure is leading to serious societal problems, do we really want to chip away at it further without thinking through the consequences?
Change is inevitable, and the Internet of Things is as well. While television, personal computers, and mobile devices have changed our society, none of these changes will compare to the coming paradigm shift that the Internet of Things will introduce.
Richard Chapo, Esq.