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Guide to ChatGPT for Parents and Caregivers

Find out how the artificial intelligence (AI) tool works and how to talk with kids about it.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate text. Launched by research company OpenAI, it gathers large amounts of data from the internet to create responses on demand. ChatGPT is unique because its answers are in conversational format, similar to how people write and speak. It can write essays and computer code, solve math problems, and much more. (Note: If you're looking for more parental insights on your kids' favorite things online, sign up for our family movie night newsletter.)

How do you use ChatGPT?

To use ChatGPT, you first create a free account on the OpenAI website. Then you simply type questions or commands in the text box. Your requests can be as basic or elaborate as you can imagine. For example, you could ask it to write a story in the voice of your favorite movie character. Or ask it to give you a recipe based on the food you have at home. The tool allows you to continue to refine the answer by adding more instructions. ChatGPT saves a record of your conversations that you can view or continue at a later time.

Where does ChatGPT get its information?

To craft its responses, ChatGPT copies and remixes information from other places on the internet. It doesn't tell you its sources or who created the original information. As of this article's publication date, it uses internet data created up to 2021 only. The tool is still being developed, so it can make mistakes, spread misinformation, and give inaccurate answers.

Why are schools banning ChatGPT?

Many school districts are blocking ChatGPT on campus networks and school-issued devices. The concern is that students could use it to do their schoolwork for them, from writing papers to solving equations. They could also be turning in work with inaccurate information. Educators are worried the program could affect students' learning if they rely on it. Check with your children's school to see if and how they allow students to use ChatGPT.

Should children use ChatGPT?

OpenAI's Terms of Use state that users must be 13 or older. If you're under 18, you need your parent or guardian's permission to create an account. Keep in mind that kids could come across content that's not age-appropriate. In addition, ChatGPT collects personal information and user data. This info is used to improve the system and can be shared with third parties for things like advertising. Under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 is illegal without parental consent.

If kids are interested in using ChatGPT, the best option is to use it alongside an adult. Kids could use ChatGPT with a parent or caregiver to get ideas about things they're interested in, like writing code or music. Families can explore the tool together and try prompts that are fun, inspiring, or helpful. Ask it to write a play with parts for everyone, or put together a poem in Yoda's style to read out loud.

Since ChatGPT is a new program, there's a lot we don't know about it. As artificial intelligence tools become more available, it will be important for families to talk with kids about how to use them appropriately and responsibly.

How can I talk to my child about ChatGPT?

If your children use or want to use ChatGPT, consider talking about these topics:

  • Explain the importance of checking the credibility of a source before trusting the information, and point out that ChatGPT does not give sources for its information.
  • Help them understand that plagiarism is when you take someone else's work or ideas and present them as your own. Using ChatGPT to do your schoolwork could be considered plagiarism or cheating.
  • Talk about how you might use ChatGPT as a family to be creative or get inspired. Have it create a list of outdoor activities for kids, or ask it to suggest a craft project to try.
Raisa Masood

Raisa is passionate about helping kids thrive, which has led to her making a career out of reading and watching children's media. As a content editor at Common Sense, she works on tips and advice for families on managing entertainment and tech at home. She has previously worked in children's publishing and at nonprofit organizations. Raisa holds a bachelor's degree in Global Business and Marketing from Fordham University. She loves to read, travel, and watch football (aka soccer). You can find her exploring New York City during her free time, and trying to hunt down the best dumplings in the city (she has a never-ending list).