A new survey by a parents’ group said that parents see opportunities for artificial intelligence (AI) in K-12 education, but worry they know too little about it.
The survey, which was conducted in October by the National Parents Union, a left-of-center group, said that 44% of parents agree that there are benefits, but also risks associated with AI.
Just 16% of the 1,515 respondents said they had detailed information about how AI works, with 62% saying they know little to nothing at all about how AI works for education.
Around 1 in 4 parents believe the potential benefits of AI outweigh the downsides, while 16% said the opposite. Another 17% were unsure.
Some critics have expressed concern that AI will be misused in education and either hinder learning or hinder kids’ social development.
Others have countered that, like a lot of things, the benefits of AI depend on the type of guidance that kids get from parents when using the new technology.
“Whether I’m looking at artificial intelligence or families using internet search, I’m asking: Where does the talking and sharing happen?” said Jason Yip, a University of Washington associate professor who studies family engagement with technology. “I think that’s what people don’t consider enough in this debate. And that dialogue [by parents] with kids matters much more than these questions of whether technology is frying kids’ brains.”
Parents have to get up to speed quickly, because other surveys show that students, especially the best students, are already adopting AI.
A survey released in December by ACT Research, the company that administers the college prep exam, showed that high school students who are high performers are already familiar with AI tools.
Over half (53%) of high school students in the top quartile said they had used AI tools such as ChatGPT, compared to 45% in the top half of students and 36% in the bottom quarter.
For students who did not use AI tools, regardless of performance, they cited a lack of interest as the top reason for avoiding the technology.
But that could change in a hurry, said experts.
AI is particularly adept at figuring out what people need at an emotional level and giving it to them.
This bond represents a significant problem, however, because kids may come to rely on AI and not learn to navigate complex human relationships, one expert warned Decrypt in an interview.
“Children can form deep relationships with inanimate objects, like a teddy bear—now you have this tool that gives you exactly what you need—because AI is going to be amazing at figuring out what you want to hear and giving that to you,” said psychologist and executive coach Banu Kellner.
Yip said that the key to avoiding these pitfalls will be parental engagement with the technology.
“I did my postdoc at Sesame Workshop, and we’ve known for a long time that if a child and parent watch Sesame Street together and they’re talking, the kid will learn more than by watching Sesame Street alone,” added Yip.