Parents and Teens Dish on Generative AI

New study reveals their hopes and fears for how the technology will affect their lives
18 December 2023
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It seems no technology in living memory has so quickly captured the consciousness of the public and the business world quite like Generative AI, producing seemingly equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation since the release of ChatGPT at the end of 2022. With an eye toward gaining a better understanding of people’s knowledge and attitudes on the topic, the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) released a new report, Generative AI: Emerging Habits, Hopes and Fears, conducted by Kantar with support from Google, which explores the emerging awareness, perceptions and early use of Generative AI tools by parents and teens in the U.S., as well as Germany and Japan.   

Among the most surprising U.S. findings is the fact that nearly half of teens here believe their parents are more knowledgeable about Generative AI than they are—a distinct departure from most every other tech topic or device (and one that perhaps may assuage any parental worries about their kids exploiting Generative AI to cheat on homework.)   

Teens Parents and Gen AI

Overall, however, U.S. parents and teens are largely on equal footing when it comes to Generative AI. The cohorts are fairly evenly matched in their awareness of the technology, for instance, with 74% of U.S. parents and 69% of U.S. teens reporting they know a little or a lot about it. In addition, 64% of U.S. parents and 67% of teens say they have actually used Generative AI, although in different ways: parents favor the technology for analytical tasks (73%) while teens lean toward using it for efficiency-boosting tasks (74%).   

Parents and teens share the same primary concerns about Generative AI as well, including potential job loss, the spread of false information and AI surpassing humans. However, the research did uncover some key differences in concern between parents and teens. Specifically, many parents are afraid the technology could essentially stunt critical areas of their teens’ mental development, causing them to lose opportunities to engage in deep analysis, original ideas and meaningful thinking. Teens, on the other hand, are acutely aware and worried about Generative AI’s potential to create new and intensified forms of cyberbullying and harassment.   

The report finds transparency is critical in easing such concerns, particularly for parents, who desire more transparency on both the authenticity and origin of Generative AI-derived data. However, U.S. parents are not counting on getting help in this regard from societal institutions, as only 14% believe government is the most responsible party in ensuring safe Generative AI experiences, and just 12% cite companies as most responsible. Instead, nearly half of U.S. parents (49%) view themselves as the most responsible player for making sure Generative AI is free from negative experiences.   

Concerns Teens Adults Gen AI

Despite any concerns, optimism about Generative AI is prevalent. Indeed, having experienced the proliferation of mobile devices and social media, parents seem clear-eyed about both the costs and benefits of Generative AI, with the majority, 66%, feeling positive about their teens using Generative AI today.   

Moreover, the majority of both parents and teens believe the benefits of using Generative AI will outweigh any drawbacks, agreeing that using Generative AI tools will be vital to remaining competitive in school and work, that the technology will augment but not replace human capabilities and creativity, and that it will make it easier rather than harder to stay connected with others.   

All told, parents and teens expect and accept that Generative AI is here to stay and that they must adapt and learn to use Generative AI to complement their human abilities if they are to thrive in future academic and work settings.   

For more information on the Generative AI: Emerging Habits, Hopes and Fears study, visit the FOSI site, where you can read the report in its entirety. In addition, listen to the recent Brookings’ TechTank podcast featuring Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, and Kara Sundby, senior director at Kantar, discussing the findings and implications of the report.  

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