Amazon updates Alexa smart assistant after potentially deadly challenge to 10-year-old girl

Smart speakers with Amazon's Alexa smart assistant
The young girl was told to touch a penny to a live plug. Photo credit: Getty Images

Amazon's Alexa smart assistant has been updated after telling a 10-year-old in the United States to touch a penny to a live plug.

If the child had gone through with the advice she could have been seriously injured or even died, according to experts.

Kristin Livdahl tweeted that her daughter asked the smart device for a new challenge after previously doing some physical challenges from a teacher on YouTube because the weather was bad.

"Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs," Alexa said to the youngster.

The so-called 'penny challenge' went viral on TikTok last year, with one firefighter at the time saying "the outcome from this is that someone will get seriously hurt".

Michael Clusker, a fire station manager in Carlisle in the UK, said every year there were people killed by electrical shocks.

"It can kill you if it gets you right," he said.

"Anything that interferes with electrical equipment is very dangerous."

Luckily, Livdahl was there to say no to the challenge and ensure her daughter understood the problem.

"My brother did this exact same thing and got a bad shock and black hand," she wrote.

"That was what was running through my mind as I heard the interchange. I was right there to say no but I hope my daughter would have checked in with me anyway before trying it. Now, I know she will.

"It was a good moment to go through internet safety and not trusting things you read without research and verification again."

In a statement to the BBC, Amazon said updates had been made to stop a repeat of the incident.

"Customer trust is at the centre of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers," it said.

"As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it."