In the late 1980s, Netflix was the only Netflix. Video game stores were the only place to buy a video game. But today, a community of apps is hard at work making themselves accessible to a range of audiences and offering the same basic experience as the land-mark platform once offered.
Now, apps are expanding and evolving as both parents and children grapple with questions of what they can and cannot access on their smartphones and how and when they should share.
While some apps are maintaining a separation from Amazon Echo speakers, others are beginning to integrate the functions of the digital assistant in a way that could prove personally invasive.
On Wednesday, YouTube launched a direct integration with Apple’s Siri, including the ability to give short commands to control playback. Users of the new feature can ask Siri to “play more of that,” “play quiet” or “play slow” and be assured that it will sound the same as on their screen. The changes are part of a broader push to make YouTube compatible with everything from television sets to the Internet of Things.
And, on Thursday, both the New York Times and The Atlantic published accounts of a technology company telling parents it wanted to add the voice-activated assistant to their kids’ devices.
As parents remain afraid of giving their kids smartphones with unfettered access to dangerous, adult content, this is just the latest effort to lure children into the realm of personal consumption. In April, Apple announced a new parental control feature for its products that could block access to inappropriate content, including videos featuring very young children, as well as better evidence that the objectionable content was actually being viewed by a child or watched while they were using other Apple devices, for example.
Apple representatives said the company is “committed to protecting our customers’ privacy and safeguarding their personal information, and we offer our customers a number of ways to manage their privacy and security on their devices and online,” according to a statement given to The Atlantic.
Parents can request parental controls through their iPhone’s Settings app and see whether they work with their phone or computer.
Amazon representatives said that they do not have a point of sale for children’s services, but said that they have more than 50,000 apps that children can download to their Echo devices.
For children that want to use the Echo devices, Amazon promises parents that children can create an account with the account name and email address associated with their parent’s account. When asked whether this information might make it easier for pedophiles to access children’s apps, Amazon did not reply to questions regarding the specifics of how Amazon keeps personal information safe.
Amazon, like other retailers, has a right to sell software to children using its devices, and e-commerce has offered this opportunity for many years. Children can sign up for Amazon Prime for free when they are under 13. Amazon’s application for children’s Echo devices will allow them to make purchases online with the data that they receive from the device.