A Texas mother recently discovered the downside of gadgets that let customers conveniently order things online with a mere voice command, and she's using her family’s tech mishap as a teaching moment for others.
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Megan Neitzel of Dallas said she was stunned when she found out that her 6-year-old daughter, Brooke, had ordered $162 worth of goods last week without permission by talking to Amazon Echo, the popular voice-activated device.
Neitzel said she quickly tried to cancel the order, but it was too late. It had already been processed.
The order, a Kidkraft dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies, arrived the next day, she said.
“The box was about as big as Brooke. We had to use a dolly to get it in the house,” Neitzel told ABC News today, noting the story gained national attention after she shared her experience on Facebook.
She said her daughter initially denied ordering anything, but she did admit to asking Alexa, Echo’s artificially intelligent voice assistant, about cookies and a dollhouse.
Neitzel and her husband had just received Amazon’s Bluetooth-connected Echo Dot device as a gift. They set it up in their kitchen last week without reading the manual or enabling the child lock feature, she said.
“We didn’t know the capabilities of the device. I think our kids knew more about it then we did,” she said.
A transcript of the exchange between Brooke and Alexa — available as an Echo feature — shows that Brooke told Alexa, “I love you so much,” to which Alexa replied, “That’s nice of you to say.”
Luckily, Brooke, the youngest of three children, got off the hook easily.
“We were able to laugh about the it,” Neitzel said. “She’s such a rule follower, and we actually never set a rule saying that she couldn’t order anything.”
The parents have decided to turn the incident into a learning experience by donating the dollhouse to the a local children’s hospital.
“In this season of giving, we thought it was important to teach them a lesson about giving,” Neitzel said. “She already has a dollhouse, and those children could use it much more.”
Neitzel said she hopes that her experience will help other parents take notice of the fast evolution of technology and the impact that it can have on kids.
“Technology is evolving amazingly fast, and that’s a good thing, but we need to stay one step ahead of it as parents,” she said. “It’s important to know all the capabilities of these devices.”
Amazon told ABC News in a statement, “You must ask Alexa to order a product and then confirm the purchase with a ‘yes’ response to purchase via voice. If you asked Alexa to order something on accident, simply say ‘no’ when asked to confirm. You can also manage your shopping settings in the Alexa app, such as turning off voice purchasing or requiring a confirmation code before every order.”
The company did not indicate whether it is taking steps to make it harder for children to access the device without an adult’s permission.