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It has been reported that children called ‘Alexa’ are being bullied because they share the same name as Amazon’s digital assistant and consequently, some parents are now calling for a digital name change.
There are an estimated 4,000 people in the UK who are under the age of 25 and called “Alexa” (a female form of Alex). Amazon reportedly chose the name Alexa for its digital assistant (launched in 2014) because it has a hard consonant with the X, which means that it is a ‘wake word’ that can be recognised with higher precision. Also, the name is reminiscent of the Library of Alexandria, which is also used by Amazon Alexa Internet.
Servant Or Slave?
The BBC, for example, recently reported the stories of different families where younger members named Alexa had experienced bullying because of their name, with one US mum alleging that the name has become synonymous with “servant or slave”, thereby making some abusers feel that they have a licence to treat people of that name in a subservient manner.
One part of the BBC’s report highlights the plight of a girl who was bullied from the age of six over her name, and even claims that adults with the name Alexa also attract ‘comments’.
One of the criticisms by those families whose children have been the subject of name-based bullying is that Amazon doesn’t appear to advertise the fact that the wake word ‘Alexa’ can be changed. In fact, customers have a choice of wake words, including Echo, Computer, and Amazon.
How To Change The Wake Word
The wake word in an Amazon Echo, for example, can be changed by opening the Alexa app, opening ‘Devices’, selecting ‘All Devices’ and selecting the device concerned, scrolling under ‘General’ and selecting ‘Wake Word’, selecting and alternative wake word from the list, and then selecting OK.
Advice for parents and carers on how to deal with bullying and cyber-bullying can be found on the NSPCC website here https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/bullying-and-cyberbullying/, on the Kids Health website here: https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/bullies.html and on the Bullying UK website here: https://www.bullying.co.uk/advice-for-parents/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-being-bullied/.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Amazon had to call its digital assistant something and it’s sad and unfortunate that the name is being used by some people as an excuse to bully others. One thing the company could do to help is, perhaps, to make a greater effort to publicise the fact that users have options to change the wake word to something more benign and generic like ‘computer’ or something that at least reinforces the name of an Amazon product such as ‘echo’. Bullying in school or in the workplace can have damaging and long-lasting effects on the victims and can highlight individuals who need to be challenged and educated in order to understand the causes, and to help them and modify their own bullying behaviour for the good of all.