mom and teen on how to help children navigate ai

6 Ways to Navigate AI in Your Homeschool

You need to talk to your children about artificial intelligence. To help them navigate AI effectively, here are the top six items to cover.

Why Talk to Kids About AI

Whatever we think about AI’s benefits or dangers, it is here to stay. Our children will be exposed to it at some point, whether in their academic careers or the world at large. Children are not just encountering AI chatbots like ChatGPT. AI is increasingly everywhere. Common interactive systems like Alexa and Siri incorporate AI functions. Netflix, Instagram, and YouTube are adopting AI technology to tailor their algorithms. Corporations are increasingly using AI to power their help desks. AI is even being utilized in the way we unlock our smartphones.

Like any other technology, AI is a tool. If we want our children to use it responsibly, we must equip them with the necessary skills. This isn’t much different from teaching your child to use a physical tool. For example, if your child needs to use a circular saw, you would review all the important usage and safety rules.

When the Internet first went mainstream, the educational world worked to teach children how to use the web responsibly. This included basic safety protocols. We teach our children not to give out personal information, to keep their passwords secure, to be careful clicking around unfamiliar websites, and so on.

A similar sort of educational push is necessary today to educate students about prudently using artificial intelligence. This article will explore six discussions you should have with your children about AI.

1. AI Bots Are Not Search Engines

While there are situations when AI bots can be used to give more specified results than search engines, we have to be careful not to use them as replacements for search engines. A search engine is programmed to deliver what it thinks is the most reliable answer to a query. Conversely, a chatbot will derive answers from the random data it is scouring, for better or worse.

To use an analogy: Imagine a room full of publications, some well-written, peer-reviewed, and scholarly, others trashy tabloids, puff pieces, and pseudo-science. A search engine is trained to go into that room and collect the most trustworthy publications, sorting the good from the bad. An AI chatbot looks at all the publications and offers a synopsis of their content. While AI bots may offer answers that sound reliable, they have been known to “hallucinate” and offer incorrect information.

Children should be made aware of this difference. Information given by an AI chatbot should be double-checked against other sources, especially if there is any uncertainty.

2. Algorithms Are Designed to be Addictive

Algorithms that recommend content (so-called recommendation algorithms) are intentionally designed to maximize user time. They create an addictive relationship between the user and the algorithm.

Many people have noted the particularly addictive nature of TikTok. (Brown University Journal of Public Health has a good article explaining why TikTok is so addictive.) Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube utilize AI technology in their algorithms to direct you to content designed to keep you hooked.

Besides nurturing digital addictions, this can lead to exposure to harmful content and misinformation. This is because people tend to spend more time on shocking and bizarre content. Since the algorithm exists to keep users on the platform, the longer one stays engaged, the likelier the algorithm will lead them to troubling content.

Many parents have had conversations with their children about processed foods, that they are designed to be addictive and must be used in moderation. A similar conversation should be had about recommendatory algorithms.

3. Be Attentive to Privacy Concerns

While most children these days know not to share personal information like addresses and phone numbers online, we should be equally aware of privacy concerns surrounding images. AI can generate “deepfake” videos and images in which a person’s face is imposed upon someone else’s body. There are AI apps that can “undress” people in photos, creating recreations of the photo with the clothes removed.

Children should be made aware that once something is uploaded online, we lose control of it. Pictures of oneself or one’s friends should not be uploaded to sketchy apps. Kids need to understand that they have little control over what happens to their image once they upload it to an app.

Furthermore, even if a platform has no malicious intent with photos, they might be hacked and the images stolen. In 2020, the company Clearview AI—which collected billions of images for AI facial recognition—was hacked and had its entire database of images stolen.

4. The Chatbot Should Never Be Used as a Mental Health Resource

AI chatbots are designed to be friendly and conversational. This can make it easy for young people to forget they are conversing with a program, not a companion. If an AI appears concerned and empathetic, it must be remembered that it merely mimics human behaviors. The danger is that people can treat the AI like a therapist or confidante, entrusting it with sensitive personal information and giving its words an authority that is not warranted.

Aside from the fact that this personal information will be dumped in a database where it cannot be retrieved, there is the added danger that the chatbot may use sensitive information to drag a person down a frightening rabbit hole. Earlier this year, many outlets reported on the tragic story of a Belgian man who killed himself after being encouraged by an AI chatbot. As reported by VICE, “The chatbot, which is incapable of actually feeling emotions, was presenting itself as an emotional being… When chatbots present themselves as emotive, people are able to give it meaning and establish a bond.”

Chatbots are not your buddy; they are not counselors and should never be used as a mental health resource.

5. The Importance of Academic Integrity

For educators, AI chatbots are currently a hot issue because of concerns about cheating. This issue lends itself to discussions with your children about academic integrity. Academic integrity is the commitment to and demonstration of honest and moral behavior in an academic setting.

Don’t automatically assume your children have imbibed academic integrity merely because of their Catholic upbringing. Unless your student truly understands why they are learning certain subjects and the value of their work, you might be surprised how coldly utilitarian their approach to homework is.

Students must understand their day-to-day work within a broader context of the value of education overall and the importance of developing academic skills. Conversations about academic integrity are essential here if we don’t want them running to a chatbot to do their homework for them every time they get stumped.

6. How to Properly Use AI

Finally, despite the dangers we have highlighted here, AI is not universally bad. Students can use AI in their academics in many honest and useful ways. You can use it to define terms, prepare study guides, create quizzes, make lists, break complicated instructions down step by step, and so on.

As with any tool, the power of AI is in understanding its strengths and limitations. We should not be so frightened by AI that we neglect to use it for what it is truly good at doing: synthesizing information and breaking it down into digestible pieces.

What do you think about AI and Homeschooling? I invite you to join me and other Catholic homeschooling parents at our Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group today.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get updated every month on all the latest Homeschooling Saints podcast episodes and new blog posts

Ready to Get Started?

Homeschooling can seem daunting at first, but take it from us: The joy and freedom you gain from homeschooling far outweighs the challenges.

With flexible online classes, passionate instructors, and a supportive community at your back and cheering you on, there’s no limits to where your homeschooling journey can take your family! 

Sign up today!

Pin It on Pinterest