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Helping Kids Navigate the World of Artificial Intelligence

Ways to explore the latest tech with children and guide them to use new tools responsibly.

Preteen boy using wheelchair with a laptop, typing. His mom is sitting beside with arm around boy, also looking at laptop.

From chatbots to image generators, it seems like everyone is playing with artificial intelligence tools these days. Although new programs keep popping up, AI is already a big part of our lives.

An artificial intelligence is any computer program that can do tasks that typically require human expertise or skill. AI can be used to power the voice assistants on our phones, the posts we scroll through on social media, the ads we see online, and so much more.

It's natural for children to be curious about the latest popular AI programs. As these tools become more widespread, it's important to talk with kids about responsible and appropriate tech use. These tips can help your family explore and learn about AI together.

Talk about the benefits and risks of using artificial intelligence

Many AI tools can help kids be creative and learn new skills. New programs are being created that can support children's individual learning needs. Depending on the app, AI can also be useful for everyday tasks, from making a list of chores to finding ideas for fun family activities. Chat with your child about AI tech that excites them. Get them thinking about how the programs could help them learn and grow.

There can also be risks when using AI tools that are not created with kids in mind. For example, many chatbots are designed to respond like humans, which can make it feel like a social interaction. Talk about how using AI programs makes your kids feel. Help your kids be mindful that they're interacting with programs, not people with feelings and emotions.

Plus, AI systems work by using large amounts of data, so they tend to collect lots of user information. This can put a child's privacy at risk, so make sure your kids know the rules of safe online behavior. This includes not sharing private info, and getting people's permission before posting anything by or about them.

Try out AI tools together

It's a good idea for kids to try out and use AI programs with adult support. That way, you can make sure they're using tools that won't expose them to anything inappropriate. Testing them together can also allow kids to think about how the tools could be useful, or even harmful. Did they discover a new song generator? Get it to write silly lyrics for everyone to enjoy. Is your child's class using a new coding program? Figure out how to build a website together!

Explore together how artificial intelligence systems work, too. Look for kid-friendly guides that allow your children to reflect on how AI is used around them. Ask them to think about the ways they already interact with artificial intelligence.

Talk about biases in tech

Artificial intelligence tools are designed by humans. They also use data originally created by humans, and data that reflects existing biases in society. A lot of AI programs are even known to give biased or incorrect information. The tech is not perfect, and can make a lot of mistakes. This is especially true when it comes to race and gender.

Encourage your kids to be critical of the information they get from new technology. Teach them to question the writing, images, and posts that AI tools create. For example, ask: How did AI come up with the answer? What information did it use to find the answer? Have your kids go and find the answer themselves from other trustworthy sources. Help them build their critical thinking and problem-solving skills by chatting about what else the AI's answers could include. Could the responses be suggesting things that could harm marginalized groups? Are the answers making assumptions about race, gender, and other forms of identity?

Have conversations about plagiarism and cheating

Apps that kids can use to cheat with have been around for a while. Many popular AI tools like ChatGPT generate text and images, which kids might want to use for schoolwork. These programs don't always give sources for their information, so they could be inaccurate or used without permission.

Explain to your kids that using AI for work they did not create themselves could be considered plagiarism or cheating. Instead, steer them toward educational tools that help them build on what they learn in school. Age-appropriate AI tools can complement their learning, but not replace it. It can be a part of the process, just like looking up information online for essays, or watching YouTube videos to learn something new.

Ask your child's teachers and school for support

Your child's school might already be teaching with artificial intelligence programs. Ask their teachers about tools that can support their learning at home. It could be anything from websites that help kids with learning disabilities, to apps that teach a new language.

Lastly, check if your school district offers classes on AI or emerging tech. Your kids can learn important skills that will set them up for success in their education and careers in the future.

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).