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AI Safety for Kids: 6 Best Practices Every Parent Should Know

AI isn't just transforming technology; it's profoundly reshaping our children's lives. From kids turning to chatbots for false connections (including erotic!), to the impact on their cognitive and emotional development, and even the disturbing threat of deepfakes, the stakes are high.

AI is everywhere now — in apps like Meta AI on Facebook, Copilot in GroupMe, and even AI robot toys powered by ChatGPT. We all need to approach AI’s answers with skepticism and discernment. 

A cautionary tale

One reader shared a story from a community Facebook group where a member asked Meta AI for restaurant recommendations. Meta AI quickly responded with the five most recommended restaurants in the group, and even provided a quote from “Sarah T.” praising the top recommendation — La Bodega.

The problem? There is no La Bodega in the community, no comment from Sarah T., and none of the listed restaurants exist. Everyone in the group had a good laugh.

While this is funny for adults, it highlights a key issue: children probably won’t be able to spot these kinds of fictitious AI answers. Or worse, identify malicious AI such as deepfakes.

6 best practices for kids using AI

Children need to learn the distinction between human interaction and machine-generated responses–whether they’re seeking information or conversing with a chatbot. Especially because AI continues to evolve and integrate into everyday life. To keep kids safer interacting with AI, parents can implement the following best practices.

1. Teach skepticism and discernment

  • Critical thinking: Encourage kids to question AI responses. Teach them not to take everything AI says at face value. For instance, if they ask Alexa for a fact, suggest they double-check it by looking it up in a book or asking a trusted adult. We heard one instance of a student researching a paper about Billy Joel. ChatGPT falsely claimed he was tied to The Met museum. Her mom advised her to double check on a reputable website like Biography.com and look in the biography book about Billy Joel she had checked out from the library. 
  • Verification: Teach kids to get in the habit of verifying information with 2-3 sources. For example, taking the story above about La Bodega, Google Maps can be used to see if the restaurant exists. A child could also ask a parent. This can be a great way to develop their critical thinking skills and ensure they receive accurate information.

2. Encourage safe and responsible use

  • Boundaries: Limit the time kids spend interacting with AI. Monitor their use of AI-powered apps or toys. Routers like Gryphon or Orbi by Netgear can help by setting time limits for specific sites, or to block them altogether.
  • Online safety: Remind kids never to share personal information like their name, address, hometown, school, family members’ names, or phone number with AI tools or chatbots. Make sure they know to talk to you or a trusted adult if they encounter anything troubling or uncomfortable.

    The Brain Defense: Digital Safety course teaches kids self-discipline with screen time, safe habits to avoid dangers like porn and predators, and good digital citizenship. And it’s taught by older peers–fun teens who teach using stories and humor!


3. Foster emotional intelligence

  • Real-world play: Encourage kids to play with siblings and friends to build social skills and emotional resilience. Get them involved in activities that spark creativity and critical thinking.
  • Understanding emotions: Help kids talk about their feelings. Explain how human emotions differ from AI machine-generated responses. Teach kids that AI is tricky because when you’re texting with an AI chatbot, it might seem like you’re talking with a real person who cares about you. But you’re not. It’s better to become emotionally attached to real people who care about you and can help you and not let AI trick your brain into thinking it’s a real person. This way your child can develop healthy emotional intelligence.

Related: Top 5 Ways AI Impacts Cognitive and Emotional Intelligence in Kids

4. Educate about the risks of deepfakes, including deepfake pornography

  • Explain deepfakes: Teach children what deepfakes are and how to spot them. Discuss the harms of creating deepfakes, including privacy violations and misinformation.
  • Skepticism towards media: Encourage kids to be skeptical of what they see online, even if it’s highly realistic. Show them how to verify if a video or image is real before believing or sharing them.
  • Deepfake pornography: Make sure your child knows what to do if they become a victim of deepfake pornography. Stress the importance of never creating or sharing nude images of anyone or themselves.

Related: Deep Trouble with Deepfake Porn: 9 Best Tips to Safeguard Your Kids

5. Promote genuine relationships vs. fake AI robot “friends”

  • AI vs. human interaction: Explain that AI, particularly chatbots, can’t replace real friendships. Encourage face-to-face interactions that build real and lasting connections that sometimes involve conflict, patience and forgiveness.
  • Respect and empathy: Teach kids genuine love and respect. Emphasize the importance of mutual care and real emotional connections.

Related: Swipe Left on Chatbots: 5 Heartfelt Lessons on Genuine Love

6. Maintain open communication

  • Regular talks: Keep discussing the benefits and risks of AI with kids. Open communication helps them feel comfortable sharing their experiences. Some families have regularly scheduled “Tech Talks” to learn how to benefit from tech and avoid the pitfalls. Ask open-ended questions about what they like or find confusing about their AI interactions. Some example questions include:  "Did you use any new AI tools this week?" or "Was there anything that seemed weird or confusing?"
  • Guidance and support: Guide children in their interactions with AI. This could take the form of sitting next to them and using it together, or simply being nearby so it’s easy for them to ask questions. Offer support and reassurance when they encounter confusing or troubling AI-generated content.

    For example, if your child brings concerns to you about an AI interaction, listen without immediate judgment or criticism. Thank them for coming to you. You could say, “I’m glad you told me about this, thank you, let’s figure it out together.” After discussing what happened, make a plan for the next time. You could role-play what to do if they get another strange or inappropriate response. 

AI is definitely here to stay, and when used the right way, it can offer a lot of great benefits. By following these best practices, parents can help their kids navigate the tricky world of AI safely. 

More importantly, this helps kids build a healthy relationship with technology that boosts their cognitive and emotional growth while also equipping them to reject erotic chatbots and take positive steps if they become a victim of deepfake pornography.

Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition

"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent

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