The Google Home Mini – A Smart Device for the Whole Family
Without having an array of smart home devices, I initially dismissed buying a Smart Speaker. “What would WE use a Google Mini for?” However, my partner thought otherwise and bought me one for Christmas.
As a typical Irish person in their first encounter with a complete stranger, I focused on a comfortable topic - The weather. “OK Google so what will the weather be like tomorrow”… “Ok Google, Will I need an umbrella today?”. I thought we were off to a promising start – that was until I heard the kid’s questions!
PART I - The Google Home Mini for Mini People
Miss Google - The Entertainer
There was no pleasantries or reticence in the children’s questions to their new little chalk coloured friend. They reminded me of the uninhibited & amusing grillings I would get from strangers during my travels in India & Indonesia. I wish I had Google’s array of responses to those awkward questions in my repertoire.
“Hey Google, are you Married? - “I am still waiting for the right electronic device to steal my heart”
“..Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?” “I am more focused on being your assistant right now, but If you happen to know any single appliances?”.
“..Do you want to go out with me!?” “If you are asking if I am committed to you the answer is absolutely”
“Make the sound of a fire, the sea, a train…. ”
Even when their questions got bolder the Google Assistant seemed to be well able to cope:
“Hey Google, do you fart?” – “ I don’t smell anything” or “You got me, I farted, It was definitely me and not somebody else in the room”
“Do you like me?” “Of course, I hope you like me too?”
A Smart Comedian with a Quirky Sense of Humour
The Google Assistant’s quirky sense of humour would regularly surprise us & make us all smile.
“Ok Google, Sweet dreams, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” - “ahh ohh, now all I want to do is wash sheets” .
Not all kids, however, will get her sense of humour or alternative answers. Some responses may need to be clarified for young children. My 5-year-old child was very worried after asking “Hey Google Are Daddy Long Legs dangerous?”, when Mrs Google responded with “A widespread myth holds that Daddy longs legs are the most venomous spiders in the world”. On a positive note my child now knows the meaning of the word ‘myth’.
“The best thing about our Google Mini is that she tells funny jokes” asserts my 9-year-old! ‘I have new jokes to tell my friends every day”
“Why does Peter Pan always fly? Because he Never Never Lands”
The Educator & Dictionary
I was much happier to see the children asking the Google Home Mini Educational and Research questions.
“How tall is the Eiffel Tower?” “What does Destruction mean?”, “How do you say ‘Goodbye in Spanish?”, “What is the Capital of Mongolia”, “Where does water come from”, …. “How do you make butter?”
“How do you spell Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?” (Maybe I should also check with my Google assistant to see if I have spelt this correctly!)
I wondered how far Google could assist parents. It was a great homework helper, but there’s a fine line between helping with homework and doing the work for the child. The same fine line existed for parenting – the Google Mini could definitely help parents, but could it actually displace parenting functions. Could I skip my bedtime duties and get Google to tell my 5 & 9-year-old a story instead? “Hey Google Tell me a story.” I was secretly pleased to discover that Google had no intention of taking that parental task away from me. Her 30 second story about a lonely Google Assistant that wondered why nobody would talk to it… until the magic fairy found out it’s Microphone was turned off” did not impress my children. My job was still safe.
Just to note Audio books are available to play on the Google Mini if you have downloaded them in the Google Play Books Library
So, Is the Google Mini Suitable for Kids?
Children may not have been a key target audience for Google’s smart device, but the Google Home Mini has certainly provided a lot more entertainment & use than most of the plastic rubbish my kids asked Santa to bring.
It can definitely be entertaining and educational, allowing children to learn lots of facts quickly, saving parents consulting their own phones to help with those tough questions.
Like any device there are some potential downsides that parents should be aware of. The children worked out after a few days they could turn on the television and play YouTube videos with a quick ‘OK Google, play a video about birds on You Tube on the television”. Controlling their screen tie was more difficult as I couldn’t just hide the remote control anymore. Funnily enough we haven’t worked out yet how to get Miss Google to turn off the TV!
I also noticed after a week or two, my young kids were becoming increasingly demanding with their interactions with the Google Mini, firing questions and hardly waiting for answers. The Google Assistant won’t take offence to impolite questions or an impatient tone of voice. We called them out on it and also started using Ps & Qs ourselves with the Google Assistant, showing the kids it is nice to be polite to everyone and everything. As with any device I imagine long, unchecked hours communicating with the Google Mini could negatively influence a child’s social communication skills.
The only other worry I had was if the kid’s questions got more daring/borderline naughty. When alone I tested out a few questions which I hoped she wouldn’t answer! I was relieved to discover that she tended not to understand some swear words (I hope it wasn’t just my Irish accent).
I was also please to find out that the Google Home Mini automatically plays clean versions of songs on Spotify, avoiding any naughty lyrics. Also, under the ‘Device Settings’ on the Google Home App there is a specific You Tube settings option where you can set a Restricted Mode and/or Content Filter to hide any inappropriate songs and videos and allow only programmes with a PG rating.
Overall the Google Home Mini is a great smart device for children to help with learning and to entertain them. It is incredible value for the range of function and uses it has. We are still discovering more each day. It makes a great gift for older children, but can also be helpful for younger kids. As with any device it is important to limit the usage and keep an eye on how your children are interacting with it.
By: Tanya Waters / Waters Digital Marketing