Family, Kids & Relationships

7 ways artificial intelligence can make parents’ lives easier — when used with caution

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Can AI help you parent better? Artificial intelligence could never replace the love, care, and attention that we provide our kids, but it might help make some of the million-and-one tasks and obligations of parenting a little quicker or easier.

New AI technology has been helpful to humans in a variety of ways, from medical advancements to summarizing large amounts of information. Of course, AI has also been detrimental in other ways, from copyright infringement issues to online sexual exploitation. There are plenty of reasons to be cautious while using AI tools like ChatGPT or other educational uses of AI.

AI tools available to the public, such as ChatGPT, can also be used for entertainment, productivity, and just giving your brain a jumpstart when you’re out of ideas. If you use these tools wisely (and sparingly), they can help generate learning opportunities and even bonding opportunities for your family.

Productive ways to use ChatGPT as a parent

Here are six creative ways to use AI to assist you in parenting tasks, including keeping kids entertained. If you’ve ever wished you had a personal assistant, especially since becoming a parent, try some of these:

Party planning: If your kid wants an under-the-sea themed birthday party but you’re at a loss for creative ideas, you can plug the concept into ChatGPT and let it give you ideas for drinks, snacks, decorations, and crafts.

Activity ideas: Have ChatGPT generate a list of craft project ideas or other kid-friendly activities to try using the materials that you already have at home.

Bedtime stories: Looking for a new story to read at night, or need one about a specific topic? Prompt ChatGPT to write a children’s story! You might ask it to give the main character your child’s first name, add your kid’s favorite characters or animals, and even instruct it to tailor the story to a specific issue or experience. For example, maybe the story is about a unicorn who’s nervous about starting at a new school or a superhero who doesn’t like brushing their teeth, with a moral or conclusion that supports your child. You can even specify the age range it’s written for and how long you want the story to be.

Conversation starters: Use ChatGPT to help you brainstorm creative prompts for kids about their favorite topics, or conversation starters about issues that you want to address. For example, you could type in: “Generate 5 open-ended questions I can use to start a discussion with a 10-year-old about too much screen time.”

Custom recipes: Ever been in a bind about what to make for dinner, or what lunch to pack for your child? Ask ChatGPT to find or create a recipe using the ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

Improv singing challenge: For an entertaining family activity, ask the AI chatbot to write song lyrics, and then take turns performing the song off the cuff. Then see how the lyrics change as you update the prompt (for example, adding a musical style like “blues”). However, be aware that asking the AI to create something in the style of a specific artist raises ethical issues around copying the creative work of others.

Motivational speech: If your teen is really nervous about a big exam or performance, use ChatGPT to create an inspirational poem/speech that might lighten the mood. Don’t try to fool your kid into thinking you wrote the content yourself — think of it more as something to laugh over or analyze together. You could always send them one you wrote yourself and one written by AI, and see if they can tell the difference.

Guidelines for families when using AI tools

As with any digital technology, there are some important safety guidelines to keep in mind when using AI with (or for) your family:

  • Minors should use AI with adult supervision. Consider the use of AI chatbots similar to chatting with a stranger — not necessarily malicious, but you do need to keep your guard up and use sound judgment.
  • Before you use it together, explain to kids how AI works and what its limitations are.
  • Keep in mind that not everything AI tools spit out is accurate. For example, ChatGPT can repeat misinformation that is posted elsewhere on the internet. It’s always a good time to sharpen your media literacy skills as a family. While you use AI tools or consume AI-generated content, discuss how to tell what’s real or fake, true or untrue.
  • Never claim that you created something on your own if it was created with AI. Modeling this kind of transparency and accountability will set a good example for kids as they may consider using the tools for their own school work, social media, or other uses in the future.
  • Never input detailed or sensitive personal information about yourself, your family, or anyone else. And be sure to check your privacy settings when using any new tool.
  • Don’t input other people’s photos or work of any kind — including artists’ or authors’ — without their consent. It raises ethical concerns and the potential for exploitation.
  • Be clear with your family that AI is just a set of tech tools, not something that should ever replace the value of thinking for yourself. Learning to do things without the help of advanced technology often has more cognitive benefits for kids, and people of all ages.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.