Future-focused parenting: How to teach your child about AI

Child plays with a robotic arm at a 2023 Upper Bound event

"In a world where AI’s impact is everywhere, we need AI literacy and AI understanding to be everywhere"

Cam Linke, Amii CEO

Excitement and uncertainty

Raising a child in a world of quickly progressing technology can be overwhelming, with many parents feeling pressure to keep up while also facing a deluge of hype and speculation.

This has been especially pronounced over the past year, with parents, educators, policymakers, technical specialists and more weighing in on the potential effects of letting children use AI tools or AI-assisted technology.

Though dialogue is often framed around absolute acceptance or total rejection, the reality is that these programs can have both positive and negative effects depending on how you use them.

At Amii, we believe that current and future generations need to develop AI literacy – an understanding of the appropriate, safe and ethical use of AI – for our society to reach the full positive potential of AI.

“In a world where AI’s impact is everywhere, we need AI literacy and AI understanding to be everywhere,” said Amii CEO Cam Linke.

“We need students, employees, citizens, parents, to have a broad understanding of AI, really enabling everybody to be part of an optimistic AI future, and make sure we have as many informed voices in this as possible.”

To this end, we rolled out our AI in K-12 pilot program this year, which aims to support teachers with the resources, education, and context they need to engage with the subject meaningfully.

We also held the info session From Alexa to Algorithms: Parenting in the Era of AI on November 2, 2023. Hosted by Linke, the event was designed to boost parents’ AI literacy skills, address immediate concerns with new technology, and set out longer-term strategies for parents to teach their kids how to thrive and stay safe in an increasingly AI-driven world.

Watch the full event and read the main takeaways below:

Common questions & concerns

Parents have been reaching out to Amii with questions such as:

  1. Should I let my kid use AI on their homework?
  2. Will my child be able to compete in the future job market?
  3. What should I teach my children about AI to prepare them for the future?
  4. How far away are we from Terminator-style AI?

“They’re great movies to watch…and bring out thought-provoking questions. But that’s the limit,” Linke said in reference to Terminator-style AI. “That said, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges any time a new technology comes out.”

This technology isn’t going anywhere – in fact, it’s developing at a staggering pace, with record-high investments in AI-enabled startups, rapid industry adoption, and tech giants competing fiercely for market dominance. As time passes, we will see a larger presence and impact of these tools in our lives.

The matter of AI is simply unignorable. So, what can you do right now to prepare your child?

How to support your child’s AI literacy development

"Being AI literate – not just digitally literate, but AI literate – is going to be essential when we’re talking about the future career opportunities for children."

Jill Kowalchuk, Amii’s K-12 Education Advisor

1. Develop a basic understanding of AI

If you couldn’t add or subtract, it would be impossible for you to help your child with their math homework. Likewise, parents who want to support their child’s AI education must understand AI basics.

Amii’s parenting event (embedded above) briefly explains what AI is, how it functions, and how to identify and encourage appropriate use of AI tools, using ChatGPT as an example. Parents who want a more expanded version of this information can look to Amii’s ML Foundations 1 workshop, which aims to give individuals a basic, high-level understanding of AI & ML using real-world examples. There are also many resources available online to help build this knowledge.

Once you understand AI basics, you can help your child develop similar knowledge and begin learning more together. This is a great opportunity to bond with your child as you share information, chase your curiosity and explore new concepts together.

2. Have meaningful conversations

Chances are, your child is already using AI tools or AI-assisted technology. Learning and then discussing the appropriate uses and limitations of these programs with your child will equip them with the know-how to operate online spaces with awareness and prepare them to think critically about any technology they encounter in the future.

For example, you can discuss how your child’s watch history on YouTube affects future content recommendations. Although it conveniently serves up content tailored to a person’s interests, this algorithm can also place one in a filter bubble, isolating them from diverse viewpoints and information.

If your child is on Snapchat, they may be interacting with My AI: a chatbot that “can answer a burning trivia question, offer advice on the perfect gift for your BFF’s birthday, help plan a hiking trip for a long weekend, or suggest what to make for dinner.” Interacting with chatbots can be fun, but kids and parents need to think about the personal information they’re sharing, and what companies may be using it for.

When exploring these technologies, you can ask your kids:

  • What information are you sharing? Would you be embarrassed about this information if you shared it with a stranger?
  • Who do you think can see this information? Are you assuming that the things you’re sharing are private, or do you know?
  • How much do you know about the company you’re interacting with? What do you think their motivations are?
  • What might they want to do with the information you’re sharing? Not just to change how they interact with you but how they might use it to change their products or help their company.

Balance caution with optimism and encourage them to see how this technology is used to improve their lives or the lives of others. Ignite their curiosity by asking them such questions as:

  • How do you think AI will help make their lives easier or better?
  • What’s the coolest thing you’ve made with help from AI?
  • When you grow up, how do you think you will use AI at home or work?
  • When you talk and learn about AI, how does it make you feel?

3. Reinforce what they’re learning at school

AI is reshaping the job market, and governments are responding in kind, integrating more technology education into curriculums to ensure future-focused skill growth. The latest curriculum update in Alberta has a computer science component starting in elementary school.

“There’s this notion that kids are so much more advanced when it comes to technology than their parents,” said Jill Kowalchuk, Amii’s K-12 Education Advisor. “As a former teacher, I can tell you that isn’t always the case.”

Though modern kids may be interacting with technology more, they don’t necessarily understand how the programs work. And these technologies are much more present than we tend to realize, including tasks that we now think of as basic, such as online searches and text editing. As AI adoption becomes more widespread, this is an important skill gap to address.

“Being AI literate – not just digitally literate, but AI literate – is going to be essential when we’re talking about the future career opportunities for children.”

To prepare their children for the future job market, parents should be involved partners in this area of their education. Consider asking your child:

  • What are you learning about AI at school?
  • Which AI tools can you use in class or for homework?
  • How well do you think you use AI tools?

4. Play with and explore apps together

Hands-on experience can be hugely beneficial to learning how to use AI and can be a fun way to share ideas, express creativity and play together. As you wade into tool use, it’s important to keep a program’s relative strengths and weaknesses in mind so you can demonstrate them to your child.

For example, generative AI programs such as ChatGPT can hallucinate and produce misinformation or provide overly broad information in response to unspecific prompts. Sitting down to explore a topic with your child can help them learn how to assess the quality and accuracy of a generative AI program’s output, change their prompts to improve the output, and make informed decisions about when it’s appropriate to use.

Possible activities include:

  • Prompting: “Explain to me what a [your job title] does”, and use it as a basis to discuss what you do, explaining what the program got right or wrong. See what happens when you refine the prompt with more context, such as your industry or specialty.
  • Choosing a historical event that your child is learning about in school, then prompting: “Give me a 3-paragraph summary of [the event] and its effects” – ask your child how the output aligns and differs with what they’ve learned and if there’s anything important they think the program has missed. If they’re older, you can ask them how they would fact-check the output and/or have them choose an aspect of the description and try to defend or champion the position.
  • Choosing a simple topic your child is interested in (e.g. a subject in school or a specific TV show) and prompting: “Tell me a joke about [the topic]”, seeing if your child finds the joke funny, and asking them why they like or dislike it.

5. Track and join the global conversation

The age we live in is more interconnected than ever, with nearly unlimited access to perspectives from around the world. You can prepare your child to be an informed global citizen by keeping tabs on AI's impact on current events, international relations and global challenges. As a bonus, staying current and discussing these events with your child can help them develop their media literacy skills.

For each topic, you can discuss:

  • Who is reporting on the story
  • How the topic is being positioned or framed, and if that’s consistent across publications/mediums
  • Who stands to benefit or lose from the situation

Developing a keen ear for talking points and the motivations behind them will enable you to have meaningful conversations about the topics shaping our future, and even take action to contribute to the design of this future.

You can set the example for your kid, teaching them to ask hard questions and work to forge the future they want to be part of.

The learning revolution

Three children play with a robotic arm at a 2023 Upper Bound event

Just like any facet of society, AI will affect different types of people in different ways, so it’s important to have as many types of voices involved as possible – not just technical experts, politicians and tech companies.

Amii is committed to supporting K-12 education for exactly this reason. Through helping teachers and parents, we aim to grow everyday citizens’ knowledge – both now and in the future – equipping them with the ability to participate in broad societal discussions and the skills to create positive transformations.

Linke says: “At Amii, we’re committed to helping people navigate an AI-enabled future. We really see AI as this incredible technology for good and for all. And we continue to work to drive that forward.”

Want more tips and tricks?

Connect with the community

Get involved in Alberta's growing AI ecosystem! Speaker, sponsorship, and letter of support requests welcome.

Explore training and advanced education

Curious about study options under one of our researchers? Want more information on training opportunities?

Harness the potential of artificial intelligence

Let us know about your goals and challenges for AI adoption in your business. Our Investments & Partnerships team will be in touch shortly!