Voice Assistants Are the New Emily Post

Google Assistant and Alexa are encouraging etiquette

Google Assistant and Alexa have features that provide positive reinforcement when users say polite words such as "please" and "thank you." - Credit by Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Sources: Getty Images, Google
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

In 2016, a U.K. grandmother got a special nod from Google as a result of her very polite web searches, which included both “please” and “thank you,” a flourish few others have likely ever used.

Since then, we have only become collectively ruder. Whether technology is to blame has been debated for some time—as well as whether voice assistants in particular will make children even ruder. Last year, research from MIT and a story in the MIT Technology Review looked into whether kids will grow up to be lazy and/or rude after ordering their voice assistants around throughout childhood.

For its part, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended parents address what it calls “digital etiquette,” so children learn digital interactions should follow the same guidelines as in-person interactions.

And now two of the most popular voice assistants have options to help.

When Amazon rolled out its Echo Dot for Kids in April—which has itself been the subject of debate given privacy and child development concerns—it introduced a feature it calls Magic Word, which, as it implies, provides positive reinforcement from Alexa when children use “please” in the queries.

And now Google is following suit with a similar feature, Pretty Please, which was enabled Nov. 29.

When users say “please” or “thank you,” they will “often be rewarded with delightful responses,” Google said in a blog post. For example, if you politely ask Google to set a timer for five minutes, the assistant will “often respond with something like, ‘Thanks for asking so nicely. Alright, five minutes. Starting now.’”


@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.
Publish date: November 29, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/voice-assistants-are-the-new-emily-post/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT