The demands started almost immediately: "Alexa, tell me a joke."
"Alexa, tell me what the weather's like."
"Alexa, play 'Despacito.' "
When Chicagoan Heather Durham's three young daughters first started using Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant with a woman's voice and a robot's effortless efficiency, Durham was dismayed to hear lots of orders and very few thank yous.
"When you're a child, you should respect a grown-up – even if she's in a little black cylinder," said Durham, 39, of Old Irving Park.
As Amazon launches a new Magic Word update to encourage young Alexa users to say please, some parents worry that popular virtual assistants such as Alexa, Apple's Siri or Google Assistant encourage rude behavior. Alexa and her cohorts are obedient and undemanding, and they respond to loud and angry voices with unfailing good cheer.
"Hearing a child boss around a digital assistant could be disconcerting," said Devorah Heitner, author of "Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World."
"It just doesn't sound nice, and I think you could say that to your kid: It's not a good habit to get into."
She suggests modeling good manners and reminding your child that using a virtual assistant is a privilege. You could say, "Hey, you don't get to use Alexa if you're rude, because I just don't want to encourage bad habits."
Not every Alexa interaction demands a please; a casual "When are the Cubs playing?" might be exempt, Heitner said. But if you're requesting a particular action – "Alexa, turn on the lights." – then please is appropriate.
Amazon's new Magic Word update offers positive reinforcement. If you choose Magic Word, Alexa will respond to a request accompanied by "please" with an encouraging "By the way, thanks for asking so nicely," according to USA Today. If you don't say please, Alexa will still fulfill your request.
Durham handled her Alexa rudeness problem the old-fashioned way. She reminded her kids, now ages 10, 8, and 5, to say "thank you."
"Now it's just a habit in our house," she said. "If you ask Alexa, 'Tell us a joke' or if you ask about the weather, you say, 'Thanks.' "