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It's a Matter of When, Not If, We Teach Kids to Use AI

To mark Stop Cyberbullying Day 2023, we are excited to offer an exclusive article written for us by Cybersmile's Youth and Parenting advisor Dr. Debi Gilboa. If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, follow the links to our various support services or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to start using Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.

AI stands for artificial intelligence. It can teach kids to plagiarize! It can make kids lazy! It can control kids’ actions and steal their identities! These concerns, valid though they may be, lead adults to feel that the only safe option is to hide AI from teenagers in an effort to protect their development, their morals, their very futures.

And that isn’t going to work.

AI is a tool, and like any tool it can damage and destroy. But it can also be used to build. To build safer transportation, to make communities more equitable, to build healthier societies. The people who will shepherd AI technology towards danger or safety in the future are teenagers and children right now. We need to involve teens in open conversation about the dangers and opportunities from the beginning. Just as we teach kids this age to drive – cautioning about the potential damage and making sure they are well educated to take control. Like every fear we’ve had about the impact of a new development on children in the past, the answer lies in teaching the risks and benefits, not pretending it doesn’t exist.

Much has been made of the potential for plagiarism of other’s work. Educators have lots of experience, since even before Wikipedia, teaching students how to learn from others and do the work needed to make those ideas into references rather than stealing them outright. Like those of us who were told we needed to memorize times tables “because you won’t always have a calculator in your pocket” we will have to consider a new reality for the next generation and the ideas they can access in moments from anywhere.

The onus is on parents to teach pride and integrity in ways that make their teens want to think of new ideas and advance their own work forward past what people in the past – or computers now – can deliver. That curriculum – one that builds character and passion and curiosity – may finally have its moment now that students have new tools to explore in academics.

There is one more onus on parents and educators, though, that springs from the rapid development of AI. As we talk to our kids about the opportunities and risks of using AI in childhood and beyond, we must acknowledge the ways AI can be used against other human beings. Even while a lot of researchers are working to use AI to stop hate, others are employing AI to hide perpetrators of everything from cyberbullying to hate speech to actual data gathering for terrorism. The good news? AI can help detect and even prevent cyberbullying, hate speech and terrorism.

The lesson here is that it’s up to humans to figure out how to utilize and control AI. Building teen resilience will not come from blocking or shielding them from using AI. Teens will become more resilient – better able to navigate this change – only when the adults in their homes and their schools focus on what lessons this new technology demands we offer, and when – not if – we involve students in the conversation.

Written by Dr. Debi Gilboa

We would like to say a HUGE thank you to Dr. Debi Gilboa for this contribution and for her ongoing support for our work as a Cybersmile Advisory Panel member!

If you are affected by anything touched on within this article, we can help you. Visit our Help Center or click on the blue logo icon at the bottom right of the screen to open Cybersmile Assistant, our smart AI support assistant.