By now you have probably heard about ChatGPT, and possibly it’s smarter big brother, GPT-4. You might also have caught wind of Google’s equivalent, Bard.
Are you wondering what this fancy AI / chatbot technology is going to do to the world? Specifically what it means for your kids, their schooling, their education, their jobs and future careers? Maybe you are also considering what opportunities there are for you as a parent to make the most of these tools to raise happy, resilient, thoughtful kids.
Well, that’s what the article below will cover. And I promise that it is NOT written by AI, just plain old me – Kavin Wadhar, dad of two kids and founder of KidCoach!
As you will see I am quite optimistic about the impact of AI in Education and Parenting. For balance, I talk about the negatives at the end of this article, but I believe there are many more positives that outweigh this.
ChatGPT is a seismic shift in the technology landscape. Here is what Bill Gates says about it for instance:
“The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.”
If this AI chatbot technology is going to change the world as much as the internet does, it stands to reason that it will have a massive effect on our kids’ future.
I’ll keep this brief as there are better explainer articles out there like this one.
Actually, let’s just ask ChatGPT directly:
Sounds intriguing right? But what are some practical ways you can actually use it with and for your kids.
(Notice the prompt I use is very specific about the length and tone of the reply wanted – I’m learning more about good “prompt engineering” which is definitely an area I want to teach my kids about – more on that below).
The best way to experience ChatGPT is simply to try it for yourself on the OpenAI website.
If not sure where to start, just consider any regular parenting “problem” you may have e.g. juggling hectic calendars, managing kids behaviour, ensuring good screen time discipline, deciding what to make for dinner, planning a birthday party or coming up with rainy day activities!
Here are its suggestions for what to do indoors with a couple of kids on a rainy day:
So far, so normal, I know. You could have Googled this stuff.
But hang on to your hats…
I saw a hack from this parent on TikTok where he asked ChatGPT to come up with a new bedtime story using the names of his kids, a topic that they found interesting and with a subtle lesson weaved in.
I thought it was a great example of how to use the tool collaboratively with your kids to expose them to its power, engage them in a fun way and reduce the parenting burden of coming up with original stories for bedtime!
My kids are called Ryan and Mia and have both recently got into Super Mario. So I asked GPT-4 recently for a story and below is the start of what it came up with.
I was pretty impressed and the kids loved the story too. If you want to read the whole story then follow this link!
Caution advised! This piece of AI is untested, unregulated and unproven technology. However it is full of potential.
Consider that while we may not let a 6-year-old freely roam the internet with all of its gory detail, we would probably be happy to let her watch some educational videos on YouTube kids. Similarly there are probably ways to let young children start interacting with AI to become familiar with it when there are appropriate guardrails in place.
Khan Academy offers one such route. They are a non-profit Education outfit with a massive, online, free video resource bank to explain concepts from math, English, science and many more subjects. Collaborating with OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, they have created a personal AI tutor called Khanmigo. The idea is that children can chat with the AI to ask questions, clarify topics and get immediate feedback on whether they have understood something or not.
They deliberately take a “Socratic” approach meaning there is an emphasis on asking questions to help the students realise the answer themselves.
Exactly what a good teacher in class would do if they had the time to do so with every child.
See the below example about how to multiply 2 by 5/12.
Duolingo, the language learning app, has also used the GPT model to build a couple of tools. One is a Role Play AI that helps students talk to someone as if they were in France ordering at a restaurant or in Spain asking for directions etc. After the conversation is done the bot automatically gives feedback and tips on how to improve the conversation for next time.
There will be many more examples of tailored AIs like this to help children learn different concepts.
If they have the appropriate guardrails and come from trusted sources, then I am pretty excited about putting them in front of my kids.
It’s a form of personal tutoring available for a much, much lower cost which can be done bitesize at our convenience.
I believe that this early exposure for children is going to be net beneficial, to help them learn how to use the tech, as AI will be a massive part of their lives growing up.
OK, so this is controversial, but bear with me.
Many kids have already figured out that they can get the bot to write essays for them. This child figured it out months before the rest of us - using the old model GPT-3 back in September 2022 they were writing custom essays for their classmates and claimed to have made $100 selling them. Morally questionable, but quite entrepreneurial.
Most teachers are tearing their hair out at this. How are they supposed to mark essays to genuinely assess the research skills, accumulated knowledge and delivery of argument of their students when ChatGPT can spit it out for them in a matter of seconds?
Some teachers however are leaning into this and actively telling their students to use ChatGPT. They figure that kids are going to use innovative technology regardless of what the school says.
Besides if they will have access to this tool in the real world then shouldn’t we be teaching them how to use it most effectively?
But what about at home?
Let’s imagine our child was asked to write a sonnet in the style of Shakespeare, but about their love for their favourite sport or game. This is what GPT-4 is capable of at the time of writing (April 2023):
It’s scarily good and it is only going to get better as the language models progress.
But of course we wouldn’t want our kids just using this to do their homework for them without learning anything in the process.
So here are some thoughts about using AI as a starting point for some follow-on conversations and coaching moments.
If I spotted my child using ChatGPT to do their Shakespeare homework I might do the following:
Maybe I wouldn’t default to using AI for every single piece of homework as that feels too reliant. And I would not want my kids passing off AI text as their own, rather I will tell them to clearly state if they have used it as an assistant (like they would a calculator to do long division).
If done right, this way of using AI as a conversation starter can help our kids accumulate knowledge more effectively while crafting their creativity, critical thinking and communication skills - all vital for their future.
Did you know that you can ask AI to assume different personas and ask it to talk to you from that vantage point? This is a fantastic hack to help any of us think deeper about a complicated problem and gain new perspectives.
It’s also quite fun!
Imagine your child was talking to Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is a conversation I started with GPT-4 and I’m sharing a snippet below from when I asked Charlie what his plans for Wonka’s factory were.
They say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Sometimes it is hard to expose our children to the ideal cohort we have in mind though. Charlie is a very humble boy and I would not mind if this AI persona spent more time with my kids in a healthy way.
Perhaps there will be a a future in which we are comfortable about our children spending more time with AI personas mimicking the kind and humble Charlie, or the innovating and pioneering Elon Musk or the creative and passionate Picasso!
It doesn't matter who it is. These folks can be alive or dead, real or fictional. They just need to be well-known in the public domain so that GPT has had sufficient training data to be able to fully impersonate them.
Kids ask why questions all the time. Sometimes we know the answer and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we know the answer but don’t have the energy to get into the conversation!
Maybe AI can help us out here and fan the flames of curiosity.
I took my kids recently to the Science Museum and they were enthralled by the aircraft section. They asked many questions:
How do planes fly? Why do helicopters not have wings? Why does that one [with a jet engine] not have a propeller? Why can’t we have a plane? Do planes go into space?
Here is how GPT-4 helped me out and a snippet below.
We can also use GPT together with our kids to model how to use AI tools. I’ve noticed that my kids rather enjoy it when I don’t know something and we look it up together. The vulnerability of saying "I don't know, but let's find out" seems to engage them more.
When children are old enough maybe they can have some of these conversations themselves to satisfy their curiosity in any direction.
A massive part of using ChatGPT well is asking it the right questions.
An entire industry has sprung up called “prompt engineering” and there are people selling books and courses with pre-written prompts to help you get the best out of ChatGPT depending on whether you are using it for marketing, teaching, coding etc.
When you think about it this is a super important life skill to be teaching our kids anyway. When finding the answer to anything is so quick and easy, it becomes even more important to ask the right questions.
Playing around with ChatGPT, and asking it for its advice too, some things I’ve learned:
Here are some specific examples from GPT itself about how a parent can write better prompting questions:
I hope the above has been stimulating and inspires you to try out GTP more with your kids.
I know that I am very bullish and optimistic about GPT technology so, for balance, I do want to end with a note of caution.
Using any new technology comes with risks. As things stand the GPT models are unregulated and there are calls from people like Elon Musk to pause development until we figure out how to do this.
Also, the information the bots return is not always accurate even though it is always confidently communicated. So its answers should be fact and sense-checked, just like you would do with a Google search.
Finally, the information it can return can be harmful – especially if prompted to do so, e.g. this example of a reporter posing as a teenager and asking Snapchat’s AI for ways to deceive parents about alcohol.
Here is some advice straight from GPT-4 about how to use it wisely. I particularly like the point about using the tool as a starting point for conversations.
Caveat: OpenAI states in its terms and conditions that it is for use for over 18s only. However there are no age verification checks performed and we know that many young students are already using it for their coursework. As a parent it is up to you if you let your kids use it of course!
To wrap up, I am very excited about the potential of AI in education and parenting, and have decided to lean in when it comes to my kids. I’m trying to stay mindful of the dangers and risks it can pose – and this article from the kid-friendly social media brand Kinzoo has some wise words on the topic – but overall I believe AI is fast ushering in the future I have talked about lots before:
As founder of Future Smart Parent, Graeme Codrington says: "AI tools will not replace our jobs, but people who use AI tools in their jobs will replace those who don’t."
For any parent that has not explored GPT tools yet I strongly urge you to give it a go and you can get started here.