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Digital Leaders contribute to report on voice assisted technology

Published: 24th September 2018

Childnet have released new research providing a snapshot into how regularly young people use voice assisted technology, and the many ways in which they use it.

  • 70% of 8-17s reported using voice assisted technology in the last year, with this number being very similar between 8-12s and 13-17s.
  • 92% of those who had used voice assisted technology reported that they did so primarily to find out information, followed by using it to ask funny questions (90%), play music (73%) and get advice or help (73%).
  • On a daily basis young people are using voice assisted technology to play music (20%), ask funny questions (14%), find out information (13%), play games (10%), for advice or help (8%).

The survey of over 1000 children and young people aged 8-17 years conducted by Populus found that 7 in 10 young people are using voice assisted technology, with 92% of those saying they did so to find out information.

Technology which is able to recognise and respond to human voices is becoming increasingly sophisticated, with services such as Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri all being ever more popular.

In addition to the survey, Childnet Digital Leaders, who are online safety peer mentors trained through Childnet’s online platform, were invited to take part in an online consultation where they gave their perspectives on voice assisted technology. 56 Digital Leaders aged 8-18 years participated, sharing their experiences, what they thought could be improved and their advice for their peers.

How young people are using and experiencing voice assisted technology

Digital Leaders cited how easy and efficient they found voice assisted technology, with one 10 year old saying “You don’t have to look at the screen, you can just say what you need…”

The survey found that 8-17s are using voice assisted technology to learn, 92% of young people said they use voice it to find out information, with 13% doing this on a daily basis.

Young people are also using voice assisted technology to get advice or help, with 8% saying they did so every day. As one Digital Leader said, “I like using it because it can be helpful sometimes like if you are concerned about something it will tell you the answer”.

Asking funny questions and using it to play music and games are all also popular ways in which young people are using voice assisted technology. Over 1 in 10 young people (14%) asked voice assisted technology funny questions on a daily basis.

How young people think it can be improved and their concerns

On asking Childnet Digital Leaders what they thought could be improved about voice assisted technology they cited lack of accuracy, poor voice recognition and slow processing time as obstacles to them using it effectively. They were also concerned about lack of privacy and the reliability of information that it provided. As a 15 year old Digital Leader said, “I think that it could be more secure and that your information could be protected more heavily.”

Childnet CEO, and a Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, Will Gardner says,

“Voice assisted technology is no longer something of the future. This report shows how regular and varied young people’s use of such technology is. From providing information, advice and help to being a source of entertainment, it is becoming an increasingly present feature in children and young people’s lives. As these findings show, alongside our consultation with our Childnet Digital Leaders, young people need guidance and support on how this technology works, as well as how safe, secure and reliable it is. This snapshot gives us an important insight into where further research, support and education for young people needs to be developed so that they feel empowered to use voice assisted technology in a safe way.”

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