When will devices replace parents?

We just got a Disney Circle — a little device that connects to our home network so that I can manage my children’s Internet access with a level of granularity that would make George Orwell’s hair stand on end. My hope was that I could connect it to the Amazon Echo so that collectively, Disney and Amazon could deliver me the well fed and even better behaved children I was promised at the baby store. But Circle’s Terms of Use include a clause that brutally shattered that dream:

Behavioral Outcomes Not Guaranteed. Use of the Circle Services may include “reward” activities for users who are seeking to ensure that their children or other dependents are successfully completing tasks. As an example, a user may condition access to web content on the successful completion of homework or chores. Circle does not monitor, nor can it verify, user activity with respect to such reward activities. Circle makes no representations about the effectiveness of such methods.

The disappointing news that our Circle is not a full-service child disciplinary program led me to take a closer look at some of the other applications the kids use regularly.

Non-Assurance of Literacy: This educational license for Microsoft Office is valid for K-12 users only. Microsoft Office does not promise to teach your child to read or write or to complete basic arithmetic. If your child uses Microsoft Excel to perform calculations, Microsoft is hereby absolved of any responsibility for their subsequent inability to add or subtract.

Completion of Assignments: The assignments feature of Google Classroom allows educators to add assignments and due dates to the classroom news stream. Google Classroom does not guarantee monitoring of in-class activity in order to capture all assignments, nor does it promise to refrain from in-class monitoring. Google does not ensure completion of classroom assignments. It is the sole responsibility of the student, parent, or parent’s designated proxy (including but not limited to afterschool tutors, grandparents or siblings) to complete all assignments. Google accepts no responsibility for school sanctions as a result of third parties completing your child’s assignments, or for your child’s failure to get into their first choice of college.

Limitation of Popularity: You can add friends to Snapchat by connecting to your address book or social media accounts. Snapchat cannot make friends for you, and Snapchat accepts no responsibility should you or your child make the wrong kid of friends (see also separate policy on “amusingly racist filters”.) While many Snapchat users have extensive social networks, Snapchat makes no guarantee that using the platform will make you popular.

Redeye Filter: The redeye filter included in Apple Photos is intended for rapid removal of the visual distortion caused by the use of flash in low lighting conditions. Apple makes no warrantee for its ability to remove actual redeye caused by lack of sleep or drug abuse. Apple does not monitor or verify the lack of redeye in subjects under 18. It is the responsibility of the licensee to independently monitor minor children for drug abuse.

Reality vs. Virtuality: The bricks included in Lego™ Dimensions are virtual representations of Lego™ bricks, which means they exist exclusively on your gaming console and screen. Building objects in Lego Dimensions does not cause them to materialize in the physical world, nor can virtual bricks be exchanged for physical bricks at your local store.

Needless to say, I am hugely disappointed by these disclosures. If technology can give us self-driving cars, why can’t it give us self-parenting children?

Author, Remote Inc: How To Thrive at Work…Wherever You Are. Tech speaker. Writer & data journalist for Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review & more.

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