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Kids & ChatGPT: 5 Concerns

You've likely come across the name ChatGPT, especially in discussions about kids and digitization. But why is this topic so crucial for parents and kids? In this post, we'll delve into hotly debated concerns and offer tips on how you and your kid can navigate ChatGPT safely and effectively.

Stefanie Parth
9/22/2023 • 5 min
smartphone in the middle of the picture shows the chatgpt logo, phone is surrounded by school material like pens and a colorful folder

What is ChatGPT?

At its core, ChatGPT is a chatbot. But what does that mean? A chatbot acts like a digital conversation facilitator. You ask it a question or input a command, and the bot responds. Think of it as a messaging platform where instead of chatting with a real person, you're engaging with a machine.

Here's the lowdown on ChatGPT: Created by OpenAI, ChatGPT is essentially the "elite" of chatbots. It's far more advanced than a basic program responding to preset commands. ChatGPT is a product of intense research in artificial intelligence. But how does such a program learn?

OpenAI "feeds" ChatGPT by having it "read" vast amounts of internet texts. These texts come from books, articles, websites, and various other sources. Using intricate algorithms and techniques, ChatGPT processes this data. This means it's not just digesting content but understanding contexts, correlations, and even the tone. This "training" mirrors human learning — the more it reads and processes, the more it knows.

The outcome? An impressively extensive knowledge base. Think of ChatGPT as a massive talking library capable of answering almost any question on a plethora of topics:

  • "Explain photosynthesis in simple terms."
  • "What are the main themes in Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'?"
  • "Can you provide an easy pancake recipe?"
  • "How do I explain the concept of gravity to my daughter?"
  • "Narrate a short story about a brave knight and a dragon."
  • "What happened during the French Revolution?"
  • "How does the climate impact the vegetation in the Sahara?"
  • "Offer tips on how to study more effectively."
  • "How does the stock market work?"

ChatGPT is remarkable in many aspects. But there are some ground rules: You need to register to use ChatGPT and be at least 18 years old. OpenAI, however, deems the chatbot suitable for users aged 13 and up. Originally designed in English, it can now respond in multiple languages. Curious about what all the buzz is about? Have a chat with the program here - it will give you a sneak peek into what your kid might experience. Plus, it's always good to be in the know!

While ChatGPT unlocks a universe of knowledge, there are also pitfalls. Let's delve deeper into these concerns and explore how we can empower our kids in this digital age with practical advice.

1. Misinformation

While ChatGPT is an impressive info hub, it's not infallible. The system uses data gathered until 2021. Relying solely on ChatGPT is like only reading a book from two years ago. New things might have happened since then, so your kid might stumble upon old info.

Also, ChatGPT can make mistakes. Think about it like this: if your kid always asks ChatGPT questions, sometimes they'll get the right answer. But other times, the answer might be wrong or too simple. It's like that game "telephone" where the message changes a bit each time it's passed along.

Tip: Turn it into a game with your kid! Ask ChatGPT a question and then look up the answer together on Google or other sources. It’s a great way to teach them about media literacy and have fun at the same time!

2. Loss of Creativity

We live in an age where answers are often just a click away. Kids might think of ChatGPT like a magic box that always has the answer. "Why rack my brain when the chatbot can tell me?", they might think.

But what if they miss the rewarding sensation of solving a tricky math question or understanding a hard topic all by themselves? Getting answers too fast might stop them from thinking on their own. They won't feel the joy and pride of doing something without help.

Tip: Play the "Try Before You Ask!" game with your kid. First, they should try to answer a question or figure out a problem by themselves. After that, they can ask ChatGPT to check their answer or get a clearer idea. This way, they learn to think on their own and also how to use tools like ChatGPT without squashing creativity.

3. Data Privacy

ChatGPT knows a lot, but it also remembers a lot. Talking to it is like writing things in a big online notebook. The problem? This notebook never forgets. Names, birthdays, or school names shouldn't be shared online.

But it's hard to know what's okay to share and what's not. Even small things, like a favorite treat or a little brother's nickname, stay in its memory. And sometimes, little bits of info can tell a whole lot about us when put together.

Tip: Have a "Secrets Day" with your kid and ChatGPT. During this time, teach them what things should stay secret, even from smart helpers like ChatGPT. The free Tech Agreement from Ohana can be a great way to kickstart the conversation and help make sure your kid knows what personal things they shouldn't share with ChatGPT or online.

4. Copyright

ChatGPT often produces text that seems straight out of a book. This is tempting for kids. They might think, "Why reinvent the wheel if ChatGPT effortlessly whips up a perfect essay or poem?"

But doing this can break copyright rules. We need to tell kids that being original is important, and talk to them about the implications of using someone else's words without saying where it's from.

Tip: Try a small experiment with your kid. Let them write a short story and then retell that story as if it were your own. Discuss afterwards how it feels. This personal connection can help make the importance of copyright more tangible.

5. Inappropriate Content

ChatGPT can sometimes produce content that's not suitable for kids’ eyes. Why? Well, it's a bit like being in a large city library. Most of the books are great, but there are a few that aren't appropriate for kids. Just as one wouldn't want a kid randomly opening an adult book, one wouldn't want them to get inappropriate responses from ChatGPT either. This bot doesn't think like us, and it doesn't know which pieces of its vast information are kid-friendly.

Tip: Sure, there are technical solutions like Ohana to restrict online access. But the best tool? Communication! Make it clear to your kid that if ChatGPT ever says something odd or off, they can always ask about it - and you can figure it out together.

In the digital world, technology often feels a bit like magic, doesn't it? ChatGPT is a dazzling example of that. But, as with any magic, there are certain things to watch out for. With a little caution, the right knowledge, and an open dialogue with our kids, we can help them get the best out of ChatGPT while avoiding the pitfalls. Let's dive into the adventure of digitalization!

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