Alannah & Madeline Foundation | ChatGPT – What Australian parents… Skip to main content

Keeping up with the latest trends in technology may not always be at the top of your to-do list, especially when it seems like there’s something new every second day, but when it comes to the content and platforms our children are interacting with it’s important to have at least a basic understanding. Knowing about the platforms, their benefits, uses, challenges and risks can help us to make measured and informed decisions about what we empower our children to interact with, and how we can do that.

Since ChatGPT launched in November 2022, this Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot has been getting attention in a range of sectors and spaces, including schools, with the technology having the potential to impact the way that students access and navigate information online. ChatGPT is a language model that responds to text-based queries and generates natural language responses. It is trained on billions of data points to simulate natural conversation and respond to questions. In short, it can feel like you’re talking to a real person, be that a friend, a trusted advisor, or an industry expert, depending on the nature of your conversation.

The technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we interact with computers and digital system, which could have far reaching impacts on society. The main applications it is currently used for include automated customer services, FAQs, free-flowing conversation, language translation and content creation, but as we adapt to the technology, the uses are certain to expand.

What do we need to know about ChatGPT and Australian children and young people?

ChatGPT does have safety measures in place to protect all users, including content filters, the technology does not collect personal data and there are measures to protect against harmful conversations, however there are some risks to be aware of, including:

  • Cybersecurity: ChatGPT can be used to write code for ransomware and malware and to generate convincing spam and phishing emails that appear to be from legitimate sources
  • Inaccurate or harmful information: The AI can produce biased or harmful answers to questions that it is asked. To support children in their ability to navigate this content, it is important that they have strong media literacy skillsets.
  • Online predators: Like many online platforms, predators can attempt to engage with children when using ChatGPT.
  • Concerns around cheating and ethics: While some organisations have blocked the technology others argue that we should leverage the technology as it can be used as a teaching aid. Blocking the technology won’t prevent children from using it at home and on personal devices. Using it in learning environments can provide children with an opportunity to develop their critical thinking and digital literacy skills, such as learning how to instruct computers to carry out tasks, and fact-checking exercises.

Strategies and advice for parents navigating ChatGPT with their children:

Education around the safe and responsible use of technology is often the best way to support children and young people to thrive in an ever-changing world.

  • Explain the tech and talk about ways that it can be used safely and responsibly.
  • Set guidelines by explaining what can make for an appropriate conversation with the AI and reiterate that it is important that we don’t share personal information.
  • Monitor your children’s interactions by checking that they are not engaging in harmful conversations.
  • Help your children to develop critical thinking by encouraging them to question responses they receive and showing them how to fact-check – the Foundation’s Media Literacy Lab can provide support with this area of knowledge.
  • Maintain and practice open communication by building good communication habits young and early you can support long-term positive dialogues that will encourage your child to let you know if they encounter something concerning – here are some tips to start that process.

The eSmart suite of programs can support children to build the media and digital literacy skills needed to navigate the ever-changing digital environment. Ask your child’s school if they have considered delivering these programs.