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AI causes worry for parents, 51% stop use of ChatGPT for homework

Large language models like ChatGPT have captured the world’s attention in the past months for their impressive ability to craft short stories, write poems, and provide human-like answers to questions in seconds. They have been presenting a new technology-related dilemma for parents in New Zealand.

A new survey from Norton, a Cyber Safety brand of Gen, has found that Kiwi parents, many of whom already feel their children are too addicted to screens, now face a new challenge from AI chatbots - the ease at which they can be used for completing schoolwork.

Over half (51%) of New Zealand parents with school-aged children between 4 and 17 said they would not allow or trust their children to use AI to complete schoolwork.

However, nearly 2 in 3 respondents (59%) with children under 18 years of age said their children go online independently, for either fun or education. This could make it challenging for parents to monitor how their children are using the internet.

Furthermore, only 46% of all respondents with children 17 years or under trust school technology policies and online security measures, while 36% of parents with school-aged children believe schools are not doing enough to educate and protect children from online threats.

Apart from worries about how AI may be misused by children, parents are also concerned about other online risks, including:

  • 50% are worried their children are exposed to inappropriate content
  • 44% are worried they are being befriended by someone online who is trying to scam/manipulate their children (e.g., grooming)
  • 43% are worried about cyberbullying
  • 31% are worried about their children getting addicted to the internet/ social media

Even though parents are concerned about online risks for their children, 69% of respondents are confident they know enough about online safety to keep their families safe. This confidence is perhaps reflected in how Kiwi parents place a premium on privacy even whilst they share their children’s lives on social media.

Of the 30% of respondents with school-aged children who post photos of their kids, 58% are careful about features in the picture that identify the school, and 70% are careful about things in the picture that identify their children's home.

87% of respondents who post photos of their children online use privacy settings, and 85% of respondents who share photos of their children online have strict privacy settings on their social media accounts to ensure they share only within their network.

Of the parents who have posted photos of their children online, 80% of them do so on Facebook, 42% on Instagram, and 13% utilise Snapchat for that purpose.

Mark Gorrie, Managing Director APAC, Norton, says, “It’s encouraging to see that Kiwi parents in general seem vigilant about what they post online about their children."

"Photos of kids online can attract the attention of predators who might use the information for malicious purposes, as they inadvertently reveal information about a child's location, routines, and daily activities. Furthermore, once photos are posted online, parents lose control over how those images might be used, shared, or manipulated by others."

Gorrie continues, “Parents nowadays also need to juggle the fine line between allowing children to explore the internet while protecting them from online threats. For instance, 61% of Kiwi parents worry that their children might share personal information that could lead to identity theft."

“Fortunately, Norton offers Norton Family, which provides parents with the insights they need to help keep their children safer and focused when online. Parents can see their child’s search terms and viewed videos, monitor for age-appropriate content, set screen limits, and more. This tool has become even more relevant as generative AI tools soar in popularity and children are being tempted to use them for school.”

To help parents keep their kids safe and from inappropriately relying on generative AI, Norton recommends parents to:

  • Understand: Ask children about how they use their devices. Get involved and invested in their online activities to understand the unique risks they may be exposed to. An open dialogue about safe internet practices can help get kids into a better rhythm of sharing their online experiences openly, allowing parents to address challenges early on.
  • Educate: Talk to your children about the most ubiquitous online threats such as cyberbullying, screen addiction, and grooming, and arm them with the ability to spot these risks. Help children understand the pros and cons of using AI tools for education or fun and have a go at some of these tools together.
  • Curate: Curate a variety of AI tools that are suitable for your children’s age. Set boundaries about when they are encouraged or allowed to use those tools.
  • Take charge: Install safeguards such as cybersecurity software on digital devices at home. Cyber safety plans offer a range of features to help parents monitor their children’s Internet usage and help keep everyone’s data and devices safe.

The research was conducted online in New Zealand by Dynata on behalf of Gen among 1,020 adults aged 18+, of which 345 are parents of children under 18. The survey was conducted from 4 July 2023 to 15 July 2023. Data are weighted where necessary by age, gender, and region to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.

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