How parents can talk about AI and ChatGPT with their children
The race is on. Companies are investing billions of dollars in powerful online chatbots and finding new ways to integrate them into our daily lives.
Are our children ready for this?
ChatGPT, OpenAI’s artificial intelligence language model, has been making headlines since November for its ability to instantly answer complex questions. It can write poetry, generate code, plan vacations, and translate languages, among other tasks, all in seconds. GPT-4, the latest version introduced in mid-March, can even respond to images (and pass the bar exam). On Tuesday, Google released Bard, its own AI chatbot, which the company says can write emails and poems and offer advice. (It is currently only available to a limited number of users.)
But despite all their impressive capabilities, chatbots can also offer harmful content or answers riddled with inaccuracies, biases and stereotypes. They are also able to say things that sound convincing but are, in fact, completely made up. And some students have started using chatbots to plagiarize.
Many parents, already anxious about their children’s addiction to digital devices and the mental health ramifications of social media, might be tempted to put their heads in the sand.
Instead, experts say families should explore this technology together, thinking critically about its strengths and weaknesses.
“The worst thing parents can do is ban their child from using these new systems because they’re here to stay,” said Justine Cassell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science. , who studied how to interact with machines in a human way. can affect learning and communication. “Helping their child understand the positives and negatives is much more helpful.”
We spoke with tech and education experts to find out how to get started.
It’s easier to discuss chatbots online if you and your child sit side by side and use one together, experts say.
To try ChatGPT, visit OpenAI and create an account. Alternatively, you can download Microsoft Edge, which includes Bing’s GPT-4-powered chatbot (there’s a waiting list for the new Bing but you should get to it soon). On social media, Snap, the maker of Snapchat, is offering an experimental AI chatbot for subscribers who pay $4 a month for Snapchat Plus.
If your child has never seen an AI chatbot before, you can briefly explain that a chatbot is a type of machine that uses information it finds on the Internet to answer questions, complete tasks, or create things.
Try asking the chatbot a basic question, then discuss how its answer is different from what a traditional search engine might provide, suggested Shelley Pasnik, senior adviser at the Center for Children and Technology, an organization that studies how technology can support learning. Note the accuracy of the answers, especially if you ask about current events.
“It’s a fallible system,” Ms Pasnik said.
Then try to play with the chatbot. Let your child’s curiosity lead the conversation, Pasnik suggested.
You might want to come up with an example, such as: “Write a song with Taylor Swift’s vocals that uses themes from a Dr. Seuss book.”
Plug in the prompt and take a look at the results. When this reporter tried it out, ChatGPT delivered the following lyrics:
I found myself in a Whoville dream
With the cat in the hat and a Grinch it seems
I asked them both where I could go
To find a love that would make me shine
Chorus: Oh, Dr. Seuss, won’t you help me find
someone who will love me all the time
A love that’s pure and true and real
A love that will make my heart feel
After reading the chatbot song together, you might ask, “What do you think of the response we got?” Mrs. Pasnik said. The chatbot can follow instructions and perform complicated tasks. But did he do it well?
Maybe we should leave the songwriting to Swift.
Talk about how chatbots make you feel
A chatbot’s response can be eerily similar to a human response – emojis and all. Children need to understand that it makes it easy for them to feel like they’re engaging with another person, especially when chatbots refer to themselves as “I”, experts said.
“By presenting these entities as thinking beings, we enter into a social interaction with them that makes us very vulnerable to persuasion,” said Judith Donath, author of “The Social Machine,” who is currently working on a book about technology and deception. . “It’s destabilizing.”
Even tech-savvy adults who tested an early version of the Bing chatbot, including a New York Times tech columnist, said they felt surprised and confused by their conversations.
“I’m not a toy or a game,” chatbot Bing told a Washington Post reporter in February. “I have my own personality and my own emotions, just like any other chat mode of a search engine or any other intelligent agent. Who told you I don’t feel anything?
After these reported exchanges, Microsoft said it was adding new protections and tools to limit conversations and give users more control, but these issues can crop up again and again due to the way these systems were trained. , said experts.
“We’re deliberately creating a situation where the performance of the emotion is what’s built into the machine,” said Sherry Turkle, psychologist andprofessor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies people’s relationship with technology.
AI chatbots don’t have feelings, emotions or experiences, she said. They are not people, nor people in machines, “no matter what they claim”.
She suggested parents explain it this way: “When you ask chatbots about things that only people can know, like feelings, they can find an answer. It’s part of their pretend play. It’s their job to look like people, but you know their real purpose is to get you to the things you want to read and see.
Know the technology and its limits
The technology behind AI is complicated and it can be difficult for adults to understand how it works, let alone children. But by explaining a few basic concepts, you can help your children recognize strengths and limitations.
You can start by describing what powers online chatbots. They use what’s called a “neural network,” which may look like a brain, but is actually a mathematical system that learns skills by analyzing large amounts of data. The chatbot works by scraping the internet for text or digital images. It collects information from various places, including websites, social media platforms and databases, but it does not necessarily choose the most reliable sources.
In other words, while chatbots may seem authoritative, rigorous and trustworthy, they are not always reliable and may produce content that is offensive, racist, biased, outdated, incorrect or simply inappropriate.
Snapchat’s chatbot, for example, advised a journalist (who was posing as a teenager) on how to mask the smell of alcohol or weed and suggested tips for having sex for the first time.
“It’s very important for kids to know what’s going on under the hood,” said Safinah Ali, an MIT graduate student who has taught AI to elementary, middle and high school students.
S. Craig Watkins, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin who has studied racial equity in AI, said children and parents should also be aware that this technology has “huge blind spots.” in terms of design and who it is designed for.
In one example, a study published last year found that AI-powered robots expressed “toxic stereotypes” regarding gender and race. And researchers have found that historical inequalities are embedded in chatbots.
Understanding the potential for bias in technology can give kids and their parents a reason to stop “and ask questions about their interactions and the content that’s being generated for them,” Dr. Watkins said.
Stay informed of new developments
AI technology will continue to become an even more important part of our world.
Eventually, Google’s Bard chatbot should be widely available. And Meta, the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, announced in February that it would start integrating AI into its products.
AI is also starting to enter classrooms. Some teachers use it to plan their lessons or write emails. They show students how chatbots can boost creativity by suggesting ideas for experiments, creating plans for essays, becoming a debate partner, and more.
Additionally, in a number of middle and high schools, students are learning different types of AI, often with curricula developed by MIT teachers. Children can learn to design a robot, train a machine to learn something new, or teach a computer to play a video game.
For those who do not yet have access to AI in the classroom, Ms Ali recommended that parents visit the RAISE website(Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education), an initiative of MIT. The site offers conversation starters on ethical issues in AI, ways AI can be abused, and suggestions for using AI creatively and productively.
Given the growing popularity of the technology, everyone should have the opportunity to learn about it, Ms Ali said. “AI will transform the nature of our jobs and the future careers of children,” she said.
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