CES 2019 : Family 'tech gadgets' appeal to parental anxiety. Every year, the CES gadget show brings more devices promising to make life a little bit easier for harried parents.

Sure, the kids might love them too : who wouldn't want a computerized Harry Potter wand that also teaches coding? The Las Vegas show's growing ''family tech'' sector encompasses products that range from artificial intelligent toys and baby monitors to Internet-connected breast pumps.

Their common thread is an appeal to parental anxiety about raising smart kids, occupying their time, tracking their whereabouts and making sure they are healthy and safe.

Some also come subtle with trade-offs. ''Technology makes us forget what we know about life,'' said psychologist Sherry Turkle, a professor at the ''Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies people's relationships with machines. She's particularly concerned about robots that seek to befriend or babysit young children.''

Not-So-Imaginary Friends : Take the cute, furry Woobo, meant to be a real-life version of a child's imaginary friend that can help set tooth-brushing routines, answer complex questions and play educational games.

It's part of new cottage industry of sociable toys, which includes robots like Cozmo and Sony's dog-like Aibo.

A gentle pull at the ears switches the screen-faced Woobo into listening mode. The $149 toy talks in a child-like voice and makes a game out of boring chores that might otherwise require a parent's nagging.

Its makers say Wooboo doesn't glue kids to its screen because it invites them to go find things in the home, help parents cook dinner or play family games like charades.

''Our focus on the content side is not to replace parents,'' said Shen Guo, who co-founded Cambridge, Massachusetts based Woobo after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. ''It's to enhance family time''

But its appeal for a child's emotional attachment and nurturing sets off alarm bells for Turkle, who has been against what she calls ''artificial intimacy'' since the Tamagotchi digital pet craze of the  1990s.

Research has shown benefits of children playing out their inner feelings and worries by projecting them onto inert dolls. But Turkle says that doesn't work when the toys seem real enough to have their own feelings.

''Pretend empathy is not a good thing,'' Turkle said. Everything we know about children's development is that if you read to a child, what's going on is the relationship, the talking, the connection, the mentoring, the safety, the sense that people love learning.

Why do we think this is a good idea to give this to some robot?'' [Agencies]

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