Back in November, Mike got me an Alexa for my birthday. It was what I wanted. I thought it would be easier to play music from the Alexa than trying to figure out the rather complicated music system we have in our apartment. Why is it so complicated, you ask? I DON’T KNOW. ASK MIKE. I also liked that the Alexa could give me the weather in the morning and thought it would be fun that the kids could make their own music requests.
Well, all this turned out to be true, but that doesn’t mean the experience hasn’t been without it’s own set of obstacles.
6 reasons your kids and your Alexa might not mix:
1) Alexa doesn’t recognize Harlow’s voice as human
Harlow’s voice is so high pitched that Alexa doesn’t recognize it as a human voice. It took us awhile to understand this. First, it seemed like maybe she was speaking too softly so we told her to talk louder. “Alexa! Play Hotline Bling!” she yelled. Alexa didn’t even light up, which is what it does as an indicator that it’s listening. “Ask louder,” I instructed her. “ALEXA! PLAY HOTLINE BLING!” Still nothing. Maybe she needed to annunciate better? “Talk slower,” I told her. “A-lex-a. Play Hot-line Bl-ing-ah.” Still Nothing. “Try saying it loud and slow,” Mike piped in. “A-LEX-A!!! PL-AY HO-T LINE BLIN-GAH!!!!” No response.
After a few more days of this, Harlow grew understandably frustrated. She would get especially mad when someone else would try to talk to Alexa for her. “NO! I WANT TO DO IT! ALEXA! PLAY DARK HORSE!” Nothing.
Then one day, after a few failed attempts, Harlow talked to Alexa in one of her funny voices. It’s this low voice that’s about 20 octaves lower than her normal voice that she sometimes uses to imitate Mike. You have to imagine her actually doing it before you continue reading. Are you imagining it? Okay.
“Alexa. Play Roar by Katy Perry.”
Low and behold, Alexa lit up and sprang into action. “Playing Roar by Katy Perry.”
Harlow was beside herself with excitement and danced and sang until the song was over. Then, Harlow spoke in her low voice again, “Alexa. Play Roar by Katy Perry.”
And then when it ended for the second time, Harlow’s “man voice” made a third request.
“Alexa. Play Roar by Katy Perry.”
Which brings me to…
2) Harlow and Mazzy request the same songs over and over
We have listened to Roar, Hotline Bling, Dark Horse and Fight Song about a billion times each. The only thing that expands our song selection is when my kids request “Kidz Bop” which plays the exact same songs in the exact same order starting with the kid version of 24K Magic by Bruno Mars EVERY SINGLE TIME. If anyone knows how to mix up what is clearly a set playlist made by my nightmares, please let me know.
3) Every Song Request is Followed by a Shouting Match
Remember how I just said two seconds ago that we were all so excited when we finally figured out how to get Alexa to recognize Harlow’s voice? “Just use your man voice, Harlow!” Well, that excitement quickly died down when we realized this meant that Mazzy and Harlow could now fight over music. Not just by flicking a turn dial like how you used to fight with your sibling over music back in the ’80s, but by having a shouting match for Alexa’s attention.
MAZZY: Alexa! Play the Trolls Soundtrack!
ALEXA: Playing the Trolls Soundtr—
HARLOW’S MAN VOICE: Alexa! Play the Moana Soundtrack
ALEXA: Playing the Mo—
MAZZY: ALEXA! PLAY THE TROLLS SOUNDTRACK!!!
ALEXA: Playing the—
HARLOW’S MAN VOICE: ALEXA! PLAY THE MOANA SOUNDTRACK!!!
ALEXA: Playing the—
MIKE: Alexa! Play Bruce Springsteen!
MAZZY & HARLOW: DAD!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
At least they are in agreement.
4) Harlow is requesting playdates based on whether those kids have an Alexa in their home
The other day, Harlow asked me to make a playdate with a boy from her class. It was her first time asking to get together with anyone other than the girls. “We have something in common,” she told me. “Oh, really? What’s that?” I asked. “We both have an Alexa.”
Well, I’m sure the Alexa playlist battle made for an excellent time.
5) Everyone has access to volume control
Even when the song is agreed upon, volume becomes another issue with everyone having the ability to say, “Alexa! Lower!” or “Alexa! Louder!” In general, Mike likes his music low. He does this with the television too. I actually think Mike has hyper sensitive hearing and made him go to a doctor once, because I swear I can barely hear anything at his preferred volume. Harlow likes her music loud. Like REALLY REALLY LOUD. I actually asked the pediatrician if perhaps she was hard of hearing. FYI, both Mike and Harlow checked out fine. It’s just a personal preference, I guess.
So, the other day, after Harlow had seemingly lost another “Alexa! Louder!”, “Alexa! Lower!” argument with her dad, she waited until Mike turned his back, snuck over to the Alexa and adjusted the volume to her liking manually. Honestly, I didn’t even know that you could do that but I guess Harlow had been studying the thing when we weren’t paying attention. When Mike realized what had just happened, he looked at me in confusion. I shrugged. Clearly, he had been beat.
6) Alexa will teach your kid cold hard truths
After many many many music choice and volume battles, Mike decided that he would like to use the Alexa for a more educational purpose. He had us all gather together on the couch. “Alexa! Tell me what happened on this day in history!” Mike demanded, utilizing an entirely new app.
ALEXA: On this day in history, Nazi Germany was the—
MIKE & ILANA: Alexa! Next fact!!!
Alexa started rattling off more benign facts about the day— something about New Amsterdam becoming a city and later becoming New York and another factoid about a British soldier rescued after five years marooned on an island, who would later inspire the story “Robinson Crusoe.”
MAZZY: Alexa! This is BORING!!!
ALEXA: Life’s hard. Then you die. Katherine Hepburn.
I liked Alexa much better after that.