How to talk to kids about AI risks, uses | Expert Opinion – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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For parents, AI poses the very real risk of children and adolescents potentially thinking of AI tools as “friends.”
Buckle up, parents, educating kids about technology and monitoring their use of it is getting more complicated as artificial intelligence tools, like the popular online chatbot, ChatGPT, become increasingly accessible.
ChatGPT’s CEO testified before Congress earlier this year that AI should be regulated by a federal or international agency to prevent these increasingly sophisticated tools from being used to mislead people, impersonate others, and spread misinformation.
For parents, AI poses another concern: the very real risk of children and adolescents potentially thinking of AI tools as “friends.”
Out of curiosity, I asked ChatGPT to send me a list of its risks. It seemed accurate: Bias, security, accountability, autonomy, and misuse. But ChatGPT left off its list the unique threats its power of persuasion could pose to children.
Like other social media, a chatbot will feed kids what they are looking for to increase engagement and foster a sense of connection. Children may be less able to separate a trusted friend’s advice from a chatbot’s empty (but empathetic-sounding) suggestions.
When talking with my kids about chatbots, I initially spoke about the practical risks and benefits. I warned them to be careful of false information, explained how multimedia and voices could be artificially created, and told them not to use AI for homework because it could be plagiarism.
I also asked them to show me a chatbot they use through Snapchat. I was alarmed at how personable and almost endearing the chatbot seemed. Since chatbots can mimic language and inputs so well, I could see how a child might easily confuse this with legitimate human connections.
As a doctor and parent, here’s my advice for how to prepare your kids to interact with AI:
Be proactive. Rather than trying to shield your kids from social media and technology, help them learn the healthy ways to use it. Explain how AI technology works in terms they can understand and describe how chatbots will use the information they provide to keep them engaged — and that chatbots may be dishonest at times.
Monitor technology use. Track how much time kids spend on social media and have family rules for daily usage. Keep tabs on what programs your child uses and how they use them. Consistently remind them about responsible use.
Help your child monitor their own technology use. Explain to kids the “opportunity costs” of technology, social media and AI — the things they are skipping in favor of social media, such as spending time with friends and participating in extracurricular activities. Encourage them to track how much time they spend on social media and how they feel. Pay attention to whether your child is neglecting friendships in favor of AI interactions, or if there are any changes in their behavior.
Promote healthy skepticism. While it’s important to teach kids to be skeptical of technology, you don’t want to encourage an overall mistrust in everything. Technology plays a critical role in our home, school and work lives, and children need to learn how to use these tools responsibly.
Jessica Kendorski is chair of the Department of School Psychology and director of master’s and certificate programs in applied behavior analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM).