Updated: Jun 1
What Is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot developed by research company OpenAI (the “GPT” stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer). It can gather vast amounts of online information and use it to respond to typed questions and requests. It can write code, solve math problems, pass standardized tests, compose fiction and nonfiction, generate tools like travel itineraries and lesson plans, and far more, all in a matter of seconds.
ChatGPT is a groundbreakingly useful tool. It can help families, classrooms, and kids to meet an astonishing array of needs more efficiently than humans can. Learning how it works is also a great way for kids to explore key STEM concepts. Finally, of course, it’s not going away. However, much like other artificial intelligence tools, social media, and the internet at large, ChatGPT also comes with potential risks for children.
Potential Risks of Using ChatGPT
Here are some of the problems that can arise from kids—and adults—using the AI tool irresponsibly:
Underaged, unfiltered use. ChatGPT intends for its users to be 18 or older, but doesn’t require them to verify their age, so kids can easily encounter inappropriate content. It also collects personal information and user data. Minors should be monitored and taught to filter the information they provide the program.
Plagiarism. Some students have already begun using AI to do their homework for them, including writing essays and reports. This is fundamentally unethical, and without guidance, kids may grow up thinking it’s okay to engage in immoral and even criminal behavior. If they’re caught, they could face serious punitive actions at school.
Misinformation. Currently, ChatGPT produces responses that can contain minor inaccuracies, harmful biases, and even gross misinformation. Kids (and adults) who don’t verify its statements can take dangerous falsehoods as truth—and worse, share and represent them as such to unsuspecting audiences.
Failure to think critically. People who become overreliant on AI tools of any kind can weaken their own analytical and problem-solving skills. This is particularly dangerous in children, who haven’t yet had a chance to fully develop theirs.
How To Use ChatGPT Safely
You and your kids can reap all the benefits of ChatGPT while minimizing its risks using these tips:
Talk to your kids about the pros and cons of ChatGPT’s capabilities
Allow your kids to experiment with the tool under close supervision
Explain why it’s a bad idea to plagiarize using ChatGPT, or to become too reliant on it
Practice (or make a game of) spotting inaccuracies in the chatbot’s responses so kids can understand its limits
Stay informed on ChatGPT’s evolving capabilities and impact in society
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Caron, Christina. “The A.I. Chatbots Have Arrived. Time to Talk to Your Kids.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Mar. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/22/well/family/ai-chatgpt-parents-children.html.
“Guide to CHATGPT for Parents and Caregivers.” Common Sense Media, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/articles/guide-to-chatgpt-for-parents-and-caregivers.
Hirsh-Pasek, Kathy, and Elias Blinkoff. “Chatgpt: Educational Friend or Foe?” Brookings, Brookings, 9 Jan. 2023, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2023/01/09/chatgpt-educational-friend-or-foe/.