Artificial intelligence (AI) is huge already and is only getting bigger.
Think voice assistants like Siri and Alexa to Custom GPTs, AI is totally changing the way we interact with tech and the world around us.
While AI offers so many great things, especially benefits in education, parents should understand the risks and take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their kids.
Here I share essential tips every parent should know to promote AI safety for kids.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence is a type of computer science where machines are designed to have human intelligence and learn like you and I.
The science behind AI is still relatively new, but it’s becoming more popular because of its amazing benefits.
AI has already made such an impact that Goldman Sachs suggests AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time roles in the US and Europe alone!
AI works by analyzing vast amounts of data through algorithms and making decisions based on all of the information.
What Are The AI Safety Tips Every Parent And Teacher Should Know?
The safety of AI for kids will depend on various things such as kids’ age, data privacy, parental supervision, and digital literacy.
This may sound a bit scary, but by implementing the safety tips below, I know as a parent you can minimize the potential risks and create a safer digital environment for kids.
1. Educate Yourself about AI
Start by educating yourself about AI technologies and their potential impact on children.
Stay on top of the latest trends, benefits, and potential risks of AI tech. I find it really helpful to connect with relevant online communities, forums, and resources that provide insights into AI safety and its implications for children.
Dangers always seem more acute from a distance and there’s a world of innovation out there that can positively transform the world around us.
2. Understand Data Privacy In your Country Of Residence
AI relies on collecting and analyzing user data, so it’s important to prioritize platforms and devices with strong data privacy measures.
Get familiar with the privacy policies of AI-enabled devices and apps your children use. Transparency about data collection and usage, control over data circulation, and secure access to collected data are crucial.
3. Opt for Age-Appropriate AI
Ensure that the AI applications and content your children interact with are age-appropriate.
Look for kid-friendly AI-driven products and services, as they prioritize safety and provide tailored experiences. Make sure that you have vetted anything they read or watch before they do.
4. Set Digital Boundaries
Establish clear rules and boundaries regarding technology usage. Encourage healthy screen time habits and balance them with physical activities and face-to-face interactions.
Set aside time for you and your children to explore AI tools together so that you can set a positive example while spending dedicated time with your kids exploring.
5. Use Parental Controls
Parental control features available on devices, applications, and online platforms are a MUST.
Take advantage of password protection, content filters, and time restrictions that allow you to supervise, monitor, and regulate your child’s time online per day, ensuring they are exposed to safe and suitable content.
Check out this amazing resource which provides interactive, step-by-step guides for setting up parental controls on your devices.
6. Teach Online Safety
Educate your kids about online safety practices, including especially around protecting personal information, avoiding suspicious links, and reporting any inappropriate content or interactions.
I like Kaspersky’s top 15 pre-emptive safety tips that give you a great breakdown.
Promote responsible and ethical use of AI among your kids by teaching them about the potential biases and ethical concerns associated with AI technologies, emphasizing the importance of treating others with respect and fairness.
7. Foster Critical Thinking Skills
Encourage your kids to think critically about the information they encounter online.
Ask them questions like: does that look real? Why? Is this human or machine-generated? How do you know?
Teach them to evaluate the credibility and reliability of sources and distinguish between facts and misinformation.
8. Engage in Open Communication
While points 6. and 7. above prescribe conversations with your kids about the safety of AI and other technologies, this point encourages you to maintain a dialogue throughout their use.
Always chat with your kids and let them know that they can talk to you about anything. This means when they want to open up you have to listen to what they say in an unjudgemental way and not dismiss any of their claims outright.
Encourage them to share any concerns or incidents they encounter while using AI-enabled platforms or devices. Stay positive with them, even if they may have done something they shouldn’t have.
9. Monitor Social Media Activity
Given the growing role and impact of social media on kids, it would be sloppy not to mention it in this list.
Parents ought to keep a close eye on their child’s social media presence and interactions. Be aware of harmful content and misinformation that are so prevalent, coach them on safe social media practices, and encourage responsible online behavior.
As above, set boundaries for use and engage in open communication about the risks. Most importantly, model the behavior you want to see from them by restricting your use in their presence.
Most of the popular social media services require users to be at least 13 years of age before they can register, although some sites are created especially for children under 13 (see Internet Matters’ Social Networks Made for Children).
Understanding the Risks: How Does AI Impact Online Safety for Kids?
Kids can make the most of AI by being introduced to AI-driven apps, games, and educational resources. From using speech recognition software to virtual learning assistants, AI has paved the way for children to explore their creativity in new and innovative ways.
In classrooms, AI is enabling students to learn at their own pace with adaptive and personalized learning. AI-powered games not only entertain kids but also provide a unique learning experience. Many children are now taking AI classes, which teach them how to code their apps and games.
However, AI can present certain risks when it comes to kids’ online safety. The World Economic Forum highlights that the development of AI could neglect kids’ needs and rights, with ‘potentially enormous costs to society’. It’s therefore incumbent on all of us to stay vigilant of these 7 risks to help ensure the protection of our kids:
1. Privacy and Data Security
AI systems often collect and process vast amounts of personal data, including children’s data. There is a risk of data breaches, unauthorized access, and misuse of this information, potentially leading to privacy violations and identity theft.
2. Online Safety and Cyberbullying
AI-powered platforms can amplify cyberbullying and harassment, making it easier for malicious individuals and online predators to target children. AI algorithms may fail to effectively detect or address harmful content, leading to psychological distress and social isolation among kids.
3. Inappropriate Content Exposure
AI algorithms can inadvertently expose young children to inappropriate or harmful content, including violence, explicit material, or extremist ideologies. Filtering and content moderation mechanisms can be imperfect, resulting in unintended exposure and potential desensitization.
4. Psychological Manipulation
AI algorithms can be designed to analyze and manipulate user behavior, including children’s emotions and preferences. This can lead to targeted advertising, addictive features, and persuasive techniques that exploit vulnerable young minds.
5. Bias and Discrimination
AI systems can perpetuate biases and discrimination present in the data they are trained on. This can result in unfair treatment, limited opportunities, and reinforcing societal prejudices, affecting children’s development and prospects.
6. Dependency and Skill Erosion
Relying heavily on AI technologies may diminish children’s critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and social skills. Over-reliance on AI systems for learning, decision-making, and social interactions can hinder their development and self-reliance.
7. Manipulative Content Creation
AI-powered tools can generate realistic and deceptive content, such as deepfakes, which can be used for online manipulation, misinformation, and grooming activities targeting kids online.
How can I choose safe AI products for my child?
When choosing AI products for your child, consider factors like reputable brands, positive reviews, robust security measures, age recommendations, parental control options, and educational value.
How much screen time is appropriate for my child when using AI devices?
Establish reasonable screen time limits based on your child’s age and needs. Encourage a balanced routine with physical activities and face-to-face interactions.
What should I do if I encounter inappropriate content on AI devices?
Report inappropriate content to the authorities or platform provider immediately. Implement parental controls (point 5 above) to minimize the chances of such content being accessed by your child.
What Are Common Applications of AI?
AI is widely employed across various industries and applications, including:
- Natural Language Processing (NLP) – companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google use NLP to enhance their virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
- Chatbots – like ChatGPT, acting as virtual conversational agents, excel in handling large volumes of customer requests and inquiries.
- Recommendation systems – companies like Netflix and Amazon use recommendation systems to offer personalized content and product suggestions.
- Image recognition – accurately identifies and categorizes images, benefiting platforms like Facebook and Google in automatically tagging photos.
- Autonomous vehicles – powered by machine learning algorithms, hold immense potential for safe and efficient navigation on roads.
AI is revolutionizing multiple industries, as more companies recognize its capacity to drive innovation and enhance operational efficiency.
As a lover of tech and proponents of digital advancement, the aim of this article is NOT to scare you away from AI!
As AI continues to evolve and integrate into our daily lives, we parents and teachers need to stay informed and proactive.
By following these AI safety tips, families can navigate the world of AI technology while safeguarding kids from potential harm. Of course, with the pace of technology change today, threats will evolve and advice will need to adapt to new circumstances, so it’s advisable to revisit this article for updates.
A well-informed and cautious approach will provide the confidence you need to create positive and secure digital experiences for your kids.
The good news? AI is relevant to adults too and your investment in this space over the coming years will serve you well.