Multicolored lights hover above hands typing on a keyboard
Parents and teachers have expressed concerns about the potential impacts of artificial intelligence on students. Image courtesy of Santa Clara County Office of Education.

There is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence in schools and at home.

Child health experts at UNICEF reported that youth around the world are engaged with AI almost daily. Interactive toys, games and internet platforms made for children utilize AI technology.

Parents and teachers have expressed concerns about the potential impacts of AI on students. Some tout the potential of AI to solve complex problems, while others note that AI may alter the lives of children and teens in harmful ways. It is not yet known how it might affect the social and emotional well-being of children.

AI technology has been developing since the mid-1950s and recently has become a major topic. The ways in which we work, learn and communicate in schools, community and at home are rapidly changing.

Modeled on the human brain, AI gathers facts, descriptions, comments, images and other information to then make sense of the information and complete a task. AI draws the input together, sorts it and makes it immediately accessible. However, AI is not able to connect new information with life experiences, as humans do.

Because AI “learns” from everything it finds on the internet, AI platforms reflect the same prejudices that threaten to divide and alienate us. Extensive studies show that AI-generated content advances stereotypes and falsehoods. Adults must be ready to talk with kids about what they see online and how it might reinforce negative beliefs and actions.

Studies show that young children who chat with smart speakers may tell personal stories and disclose private information. One study found that children between three and six years old believed that smart speakers had thoughts, feelings and social abilities.

Researchers and educators are finding that AI technology can help with learning by tailoring lessons to individual needs. Children and families have a digital footprint. Youth may use AI, such as ChatGPT, to help with school assignments because they can find facts and search among millions of charts and images. ChatGPT uses artificial intelligence to amass data to generate essays, and more in a conversational format.

AI tools like ChatGPT are best used alongside an adult. Common Sense Media provides information on ChatGPT and a guide for parents and caregivers.

The White House has also issued useful guidance about AI.

San José Spotlight columnist Mary Ann Dewan is the superintendent of schools for Santa Clara County. She has more than 33 years of experience in the field of education. Her columns appear every third Monday of the month.

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