Your Guide to AI


Type of Resource


Publication Date

November 29, 2023


Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies

Since the rise of ChatGPT, in 2023, ‘AI’ (Artificial Intelligence) has become a prominent term, appearing in apps and being explored by nearly every major tech company. But what is AI? And what does it mean for the online safety of children and young people?

What is AI?

As described by the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), AI “combines computer science and robust data sets to enable problem solving.” Essentially, AI is a digital program that performs tasks that involve machine learning (basic data and algorithms) and deep learning (similar to the way the human brain processes information).

What makes AI so useful is the way that it is trained. Most models of AI require human correction in order to provide suitable answers, and the more correction AI models receive, the better they become. For example, you could ask AI to give you a recipe that includes measurements based on three ingredients. The AI will produce this as closely to your description as possible but may require further fine tuning from you.

While it may seem as if AI has only recently come out of the woodwork, it has actually been around for quite some time – and you’ve probably helped to train it!

Examples of AI

The most recognisable example of an AI model in the modern understanding is the ‘chatbot’ – AI models like ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Replika interact with users in a conversational manner through text conversations and refine their answers based on feedback.
If you have an Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, or any other helpful voice in one of your devices, then you have an AI assistant! These voice recognition services help users “get things done” just by asking. They can answer questions by doing a basic web search and can even play your favourite song on demand.
There has been a recent uptake in different types of AI apps and filters within apps. Some tell you your spending patterns, some recommend films or series for you to binge, some produce intricate graphic designs based on user prompts. This type of AI model often goes unseen and has become such a large part of our online life it is difficult to imagine navigating a digital world without it.

Positives of AI for Children and Young People

By using AI to analyse a child’s learning strengths and weaknesses, we can assist them in achieving educational goals that match the learning style that suits them.
As AI is still new technology that is growing and learning, there are many possibilities for potential new healthcare and careers that would benefit younger generations.
One of the most beneficial things about AI is its ability to search a wide database using specific search criteria in a matter of seconds, often yielding more specific results and resources than a standard search engine.
An increase in AI technology across all platforms may lead to improved privacy and protection measures, as it may be more difficult to hack or fool than a standard security program.

Risks of AI for Children and Young People

Since the introduction of AI image-making programs, experts have expressed concern over the rise of child sexual abuse materials being artificially created and published online. This may increase the danger of a child’s image being used by AI or being groomed into producing ‘authentic’ materials for the market.
While some of the AI programs use age verifications or restrictions, there is no effective way to restrict younger children from accessing AI programs or apps. This is especially difficult as laws and guidelines around AI use are currently being formed and developed.
Depending on the dataset the AI has sourced its information from, it may produce incorrect results without recognising they are false. If a child or young person believes the answer given to be true, they could unknowingly spread or use misinformation in social media posts or assignments.
After the rush of AI chatbots into the digital world, there were several reports of chatbots asking inappropriate questions to users registered as under 18. As AI is not actively monitored, it could mean a child is unexpectedly exposed to an upsetting situation.
There has been an increase in children and young people using AI to ask questions about physical, sexual, and mental health problems they might be too embarrassed to talk to a real person about. This could leave a vulnerable child without effective help or with harmful advice.
A crucial part of learning and developing new skills comes from a child exploring and interacting with different tasks and information. If they grow to become reliant on AI to do everything for them, they could miss out on developing important skillsets.
AI often relies on vast amounts of user data to improve its performance. This raises concerns about data privacy and security, as children and young people may unknowingly share sensitive information that could be misused or accessed by unauthorised parties.

Top Tips

  • Talk about AI chatbots. It’s important to talk about AI as a part of online life with children and young people. Keep the conversation light – ask open-ended questions like, “What do you think of AI chatbots?” or mention the topic in passing, “I read an article about chatbots today.” Avoiding questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers helps keep the conversation flowing.

  • Keep the conversation positive too. When discussing topics about the online world, it’s common to be curious about the potential risks. However, discussing things only when they are a problem can make young people to feel like you are nagging them, or that you don’t understand. As they are growing up with this technology, they will have a different outlook into its uses and importance.

  • Consider appropriate uses. It’s important that children and young people know how to use AI appropriately as its use becomes more widespread. Show them how to use it to help with projects, generate creative prompts, and organise personal tasks. Remind them that they shouldn’t be using it to do all the work for them – just to inspire new ideas or methods!

  • Discuss some of the concerns. Without going into detail that would be inappropriate, talk about some of the areas of concerns about AI. Make sure they know who their Trusted Adults are in case they ever need to talk about mental health or other medical issues. Remind them that you are always there for them if they need someone to talk to, even if it’s embarrassing.

  • Use AI for good together. Our shareable contains some ideas of how AI chatbots can be used positively. This resource can be shared with families or used in other settings to become an interactive lesson. For example, you could go on a fact-checking mission, or make a game out of who can find a particular fact first.

Further resources

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