AI is transforming our planet – here’s what children need to know

January 22, 2020

Children increasingly live in a world transformed by artificial intelligence, or AI, and those who understand it will live richer and more fulfilling lives. This article begins by defining AI, discusses AI myths, has three hands-on AI activities, describes how AI is being used today, and concludes with additional resources for parents.

Explaining AI to teens.

One way to approach teaching teens about artificial intelligence is by first discussing intelligence and differentiating natural intelligence from artificial intelligence.

Intelligence can be defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, or to solve problems. Humans use memory and thinking to make decisions and remember things, and this is called human intelligence. This type of intelligence is considered “natural,” since it has developed through the process of evolution and it wasn’t created by something else. Natural intelligence is not limited to humans, and can be exhibited in other animals as well.

While most computers rely on a person’s input through a keyboard or mouse to tell it what to do, data scientists and others have developed software that is able to learn from experiences in order to make decisions. Some computers can perform tasks that are characteristic of human intelligence, or have an “artificial” intelligence. This video explains more about What is AI?

Describing AI to younger children.

One way that parents can demystify the concept of artificial intelligence is by using an analogy that children understand. As an example, many people have dogs as pets and train their dogs to not jump up on people and to go to the bathroom outside. Training artificial intelligence is similar to the way families train pets because it’s done with encouragement, somewhat like by giving a dog a treat when the dog doesn’t jump up, and through punishment, like punishing the dog if the dog has an accident in the house. Through repetition, dogs can learn tricks and similarly, machines that have been designed with artificial intelligence can learn through repetitive training.

Myths and misunderstandings about AI.

Complicating children’s understanding of AI are misunderstandings that many of us have about how AI will affect us. Will AI will make most humans jobless? Will AI wipe off humans from the planet? Is AI inherently not creative? False, false, and false. Watch Artificial Intelligence: Busting the Myths with your children, and then discuss what you’ve seen.

Helping children become hands-on with AI activities.

Here are three activities that you can do together with children to help them understand AI:

  • Can AI be creative? Watch Blue Jeans and Bloody Tears, a video about a song that was made by AI. Did you like it? Could you tell that it was created by AI? Can AI be creative? Why or why not?

  • Can AI learn to recognize your doodling? Watch the video to learn about this experiment and then try your hand at Quick, Draw!

  • In the mood for a piano duet? AI Duet will respond to your piano playing by accompanying you!

But I don’t use AI.

In a recent survey about AI, of the adult respondents who said that they’ve never used AI before, 63% were actually using it. They just weren’t aware that they were. Explore and discuss how we’re using AI in our everyday life by reading 10 Examples of Artificial Intelligence You’re Using in Daily Life.

Additional resources for parents.

Learn how you can reduce children’s confusion about AI at Why the Kids Should Call the Robot It and four ways that you can help prepare children for a world with AI at Preparing our children for the AI-powered future.

This is the third in a series of articles written for FOSI by AI Literacy and discusses how parents can engage with their children to discuss AI. AI Literacy believes that the responsible and thoughtful use of AI will lead to a bright future for mankind. Learn more about AI by visiting

Written by

Daniel Kent

Daniel Kent is the founder and CEO of Net Literacy, an all-volunteer, student-run nonprofit that bridges the digital divide through its digital literacy and digital inclusion programs. Net Literacy has increased computer access to over 250,000 individuals, was highlighted in the National Broadband Plan presented to Congress and has been honored by two American Presidents. Kent has authored whitepapers on Digital Inclusion, Digital Literacy, Broadband Adoption, and works in Silicon Valley building products that use machine learning and artificial intelligence. His MBA is from the Yale School of Management and his Masters in Information and Data Science is from UC Berkeley.