Experts in digital safety
AI: the stuff of dreams or nightmares? Going by the movies, it has the potential to take over the world, and judging by the viral response to ChatGPT, there might be some truth to it.
In just 5 days of launch, the AI newcomer reached 1 million users, crossing the 100 million mark only 3 months later. So, what’s all the excitement about? And more importantly, is ChatGPT safe, especially for children? Or is it just as risky as the movies make AI out to be? Let’s take a closer look at the tool, how it works, and how to talk to your kids about it.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a chatbot, created and developed by OpenAI, a research lab dedicated to artificial intelligence. The AI system is designed and trained to simulate more conversational, human responses to prompts and questions.
After launch in November 2022, ChatGPT quickly became a viral phenomenon, with people impressed by the way the bot models human responses as best it can, and the detailed, easy-to-understand answers it is capable of giving.
How does ChatGPT work?
ChatGPT is a trained artificial intelligence bot, instructed on a huge database of websites, books, articles and many other texts, which help it to understand the patterns of natural, more human-sounding language. Put simply, it behaves like a language machine, pre-trained to mimic writing, and when prompted, it will use its knowledge to generate a response similar to one a real person might give.
What can you use ChatGPT for?
Because of its “natural” language format, ChatGPT can be used for many different tasks and purposes, such as:
- Answering questions
- Translating language
- Generating text and content, like articles, stories or poems
- Summarizing information
- Writing code
- Carrying out research
- Giving recommendations
Is it safe to use ChatGPT?
Tech-wise, ChatGPT uses data encryption to protect any details entered during user interactions, and the model itself is hosted on secure, restricted-access servers. However, bear in mind that whenever you use any free product on the internet, you are also part of the product. This means that any data or information you enter into ChatGPT (or other free services online) is no longer in your control. The company behind it has the rights and access to it.
If you or your child use ChatGPT, then be sure not to enter or use personal information while asking for responses.
Some additional safety concerns surrounding ChatGPT come from how people might choose to interact with the bot, and how reliable the information it gives is.
- ChatGPT could be used by hackers or scammers in different ways, such as creating convincing, conversational emails, or messages in the style of a particular company, to request personal information and data.
- Responses provided by ChatGPT could be wrong or misleading, such as information surrounding health-related topics. Information provided by the bot should be double-checked, talked over with an adult, or verified using a reliable source.
Where does ChatGPT get its information?
ChatGPT was trained on a wide source of text, ranging from books to online articles, from different sources. This means it could easily create text which sounds accurate and believable, despite being neither. Even OpenAI researchers have stated that ChatGPT or similar tools could aid in the spread of “a particular political agenda, and/or a desire to create chaos or confusion.”
Why has ChatGPT been banned in some schools?
Some schools and school districts in the US, Australia, and India have banned the use of ChatGPT, over worries that it could encourage students to cheat, while not allowing them to think critically or for themselves. Others have raised concerns that ChatGPT will give rise to more plagiarism, as students copy the answers the bot gives.
On the other hand, some tech experts and specialists argue that ChatGPT could be seen as a new learning opportunity, providing students with an interactive and engaging way to practice skills they are learning, and tailoring learning to match the student’s individual style for improved understanding.
Far from banning the tool, organizations such as the International Baccalaureate have stated students will be allowed to quote from content created by ChatGPT, treating it like any other source or ideas taken from other people on the internet.
“Intelligence always looks for the simplest solution. Children are going to use new tools like ChatGPT to do their homework, whether we like it or not, and it’s important to show them when AI is appropriate, and when it isn’t. This type of intelligence is causing a revolution in the classroom. The future of education won’t be essay writing and memorizing facts. This is only the beginning.”
Eduardo Cruz, Qustodio CEO & Founder
Talking to your child about ChatGPT
Just as with any AI technology, kids and adults alike will benefit most when managing expectations of tools like ChatGPT, and exercising caution when using it. AI technology represents the future, and young people need to understand its pros and cons, how to double-check the information ChatGPT provides, and whether the response it gives is biased or inaccurate.
If you’re worried about how your child might interact with ChatGPT, try using it together for a few trial runs, and talking about the responses together. After you’ve entered the prompt, you can point out things that are good or bad about the bot’s answer, such as:
- How creative it is
- If it’s accurate or factual
- If it actually answers the question or prompt
- If the response needs a little more fine-tuning, or a follow up
Given ChatGPT’s virality, it’s almost impossible to expect children not to run across it or test it out at any point. AI technology is here to stay, and if children express a wish in using it, or are excited to engage with it, it’s better to encourage them to use it carefully and safely, so they can understand when it might be appropriate – or not – to use these kinds of tools.