LONDON: Four in ten children in the UK aged 9-16 are already using voice recognition devices at home, according to new research which raises questions about how they will communicate with each other in the future.

More than 2,000 children in schools across the UK completed in-depth online surveys for the 2018 CHILDWISE Monitor, an annual report from the CHILDWISE market research agency, which specialises in children and young people.

Currently, the majority of voice-activated interactions are via assistants such as Apple’s Siri (36%) and Microsoft’s Cortana (20%); just 7% used Google Assistant.

But as sales of smart speakers pick up, a significant proportion are using Amazon’s Alexa (15%), a figure which is likely to grow.

Last year Radiocentre research suggested that one in four people expected to buy an Amazon Echo device soon and projected that this year 40% of households in the UK could own one.

Whether adoption happens that quickly or not, the direction of travel with regards to use of voice seems clear, especially once the younger generation gets a taste for it.

The CHILDWISE report showed children mainly use the technology to search for information, with one in seven asking, for example, for help with their homework; one in nine ask their digital assistants to play music.

“Our research shows that children age 9 to 16 are really taking to voice recognition gadgets such as Siri and Alexa this year – with the younger children using them the most,” said Simon Leggett, research director at CHILDWISE.

“We are on the tipping point with this technology and it is about to become mainstream for children. This is likely to have implications around how children will learn to communicate,” he added.

“Will children become accustomed to saying and doing whatever they want to a digital assistant ‘do this, do that’ – talking as aggressively or rudely as they like without any consequences. Will they then start doing the same to shop assistants or teachers?” Leggett wondered.

Just as children are enthusiastically adopting voice, so too they are picking up on VR, with 25% reporting they have mobile VR equipment at home; 11% have Playstation VR, 10% have Oculus Rift and 6% have HTC Vive.

The report also found that most children now use devices other than a traditional television set to watch video content and that binge watching of content is a growing habit.

Sourced from CHILDWISE; additional content by WARC staff