Is ChatGPT suitable for children? 🤔

Is ChatGPT suitable for children? 🤔

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Donnie Piercey is trying to buck the trend.

Last month, in his Lexington, Kentucky classroom, he asked his class - 23 fifth-graders - to beat the ‘robot’.

The robot in question was ChatGPT - the hyper-powerful AI chatbot that could churn out entire novels in a jiffy. So much so that it sparked outrage in many industries, and spooked schools to ban it altogether.

In the wake of rampant plagiarism, OpenAI - makers of ChatGPT, were even forced to create a tool that detected AI-generated text outputs.

Donnie sees the tool as a companion that can pique children’s interest in a vast array of things. A creative nudger of sorts.

I have seen this before in my 17 years of teaching experience,” he says, “powerful emerging technology always makes people nervous. Think of Google, Wikipedia, YouTube - and see what they have become today.

His experiment was a success. Students, mostly aged between 10-12, found the challenge fun and engaging. What ensued was a lively discussion about the pros and cons of ChatGPT and how it helped them hone their skills.

Interestingly, these children saw this tool as an aide, and not an adversary.

If the ever-increasing dependence of your children on digital devices and the ramifications of social media on their mental health is distressing you as a parent, tools like ChatGPT might add to your woes.

But should you worry for your child if they show you a Dr. Seuss poem that was not written by Dr Seuss? Instead, an AI model regurgitated it.

ChatGPT can help explore new horizons ✨

Pundits now agree that the widespread apprehension around ChatGPT being an adversary for learning is more myth than reality.

Here is how your kids can leverage ChatGPT to boost productivity and unlock creative dimensions:

  1. Learn answers to complex and awkward questions - you may run out of witty answers to your child’s inquisitive queries, but ChatGPT will not.
  2. Play interactive games that create an environment of friendly competition. It teaches children valuable problem-solving skills.
  3. Learn a new language, even one that is not available in popular apps like Duolingo, Babel, Memrise, etc.
  4. Tinker with writing literature or bedtime stories from seemingly infinite prompts.
  5. Helping with school work by collating information about a topic, or a mixture of different subjects. ChatGPT can also elucidate concepts to make them easily understandable.

How to usher your children into the age of AI 🚀

Experts are now advising parents to take the lead while introducing their children to AI tools like ChatGPT. Shelley Pasnik, a senior adviser to the Center for Children and Technology - an organization that researches how technology can supplant learning - suggests to co-explore with your child if they are not yet exposed to AI.

This makes the process to discuss online chatbots between you and your child much easier.

Sit with your child, side-by-side, and use ChatGPT together 🤝

To use it, you need to visit OpenAI and create an account. You can also download the latest version of Microsoft Edge that comes with Bing’s GPT-4-powered AI chatbot.

If your child has not seen ChatGPT or an AI chatbot before, explain to them what it is - a machine that answers questions by searching and collecting information about it on the internet.

Trace down the history of AI with us, here.

Start with basic stuff, and progress slowly 📈

You do not want to overwhelm your child with the massive power that tools like ChatGPT wield. Instead, start slow. Ask the chatbot a basic question, and observe it auto-generating the answer.

Talk to your child about how this differs from a Google search.

If you are asking the chatbot about current affairs, make a point to check the accuracy of its results.

Steadily make your way toward more complex, contextual questions. Let your child’s imagination drive these gradual bumps in complexity.

Ms. Pasnik says it is crucial to let children know that it is a fallible system, and not to trust the outputs 100%.

Revv up the conversations, and let your child’s curiosity take center stage 💭

Now to the fun stuff. Engage your child to ask ChatGPT something wacky. For example, writing a “Justin Bieber song from a Lewis Carroll poem”.

It resulted in this wild output from ChatGPT when I tried it:

Verse 1:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat,
How I wonder where you're at,
Flying through the starry night,
In your wings, such graceful sight.


Oh, Justin Bieber, can't you see?
You're the only one for me,
My heart beats to the rhythm of your song,
I've loved you all along.

Once ChatGPT generates the song, read it together with your child and then ask them what they thought of it.

You can also explore where it faltered, and which parts it did well. This is a good segue to tell them that AI tools can do much more than create texts. They can complete tasks, they can generate images, and much more.

Discuss how chatbots make you feel 🗣️

Chatbots like ChatGPT respond like human beings. So the outputs can often be eerie for a child. This can also make kids, often impressionable and vulnerable, to get persuaded. Even adults are not immune to this.

Microsoft has been putting more safeguards to ensure users remain in control of their conversations with AI tools. You as a parent, need to explain to your kids that chatbots do not have feelings, emotions, or experiences.

Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and a psychologist, suggested parents bring up the fact that AI chatbots can answer only the questions that have information available over the internet.

Children should understand that ChatGPT behaves like a human being. But this doesn’t make it human.

Discuss the limits of ChatGPT 🚫

While tools like ChatGPT are immensely powerful, they are not immune to producing biased, offensive, racist, incorrect, or inappropriate results. It is imperative for you as a parent to explain this to your children. A good starting point for this would be to discuss the basics: how ChatGPT gathers its data and prepares the responses.

Tell them that ChatGPT uses a ‘neural network’, something akin to our brains. It learns by analyzing large amounts of data. This network runs on mathematical systems called ‘algorithms’ that scrape data off the internet to prepare responses.

By explaining the basics, you can also bring up the fact that the responses are not always 100% reliable.

Children can thus understand the strengths and weaknesses of ChatGPT and make informed decisions.

Keep abreast of new developments 🧬

Earlier this month, OpenAI released its latest AI model. Dubbed GPT-4, this model is a significant upgrade from its predecessors, being able to accept images, pull and summarize text from screenshots, and even answer questions that come with diagrams.

As a parent, be on top of these developments so you understand their impact on existing AI tools like ChatGPT.

Learning the AI tool will also enable you to set limits or force ChatGPT to respond with kid-appropriate answers. It is also a good idea to review ChatGPT chat logs to understand what your child may be asking.

Conclusion: Not a foe, but a guide

AI tools like ChatGPT took a momentous leap last year.

From mere chatbots that could only answer a few pre-determined questions, they are now able to do a whole lot more. Their unlimited potential has made educators and parents wary.

Some think that easy access to powerful AI tools will make creativity obsolete, instead creating a flurry of similar-looking texts, images, and other content that lack individuality.

The real picture is markedly different. Across the US, several schools and colleges are already embracing tools like ChatGPT as creative companions for their students. Teachers are using ChatGPT to create study notes, and write emails.

Organizations like International Baccalaureate have recently allowed ChatGPT for their essays, calling it an “exciting educational opportunity”.

Parents can also visit the website for RAISE (Responsible AI for Social Development and Education), an MIT initiative that offers various resources.

These include how to talk to your children about how to use AI tools creatively and productively, and about their issues with ethics and limitations.

ChatGPT is here for good, whether we like it or not. “The worst thing we can do as parents is to forbid our children to use these new systems,” said Justine Cassell, a Computer Science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in a recent NYT interview.

Instead, he commended, “Helping [them] understand the positives and negatives is far more helpful.”