With widespread consumer adoption of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and Dall-E, public awareness has been growing about potential risks and opportunities for young people’s learning and development. From the first flush of concerns about ChatGPT-generated student essays to fears about AI powered social media driving youth mental health problems, debates over young people’s engagement with AI have featured prominently in public debates over the social costs and benefits of AI. Although many of these concerns have seemingly erupted overnight, they are rooted in a resilient set of cultural dynamics and institutionalized social practices.
I’m writing to share a new publication that speaks to some of these broader social and cultural contexts of young people and AI, released just as ChatGPT burst onto the public stage. Co-edited with Remy Cross, Karthik Dinakar, and Candice Odgers, Algorithmic Rights and Protections for Children was initially released online as a work in progress, and is now out as a revised print edition with MIT Press. It focuses on understanding diverse children’s evolving relationships with algorithms, digital data, and platforms; and offers guidance on how stakeholders can shape these relationships to support children’s agency and protect them from harm.
Just as in prior transformative waves of technology adoption, including mobile media, networked games, and social media, young people will undoubtedly drive social and cultural innovation in the consumer AI landscape. Unlike these prior cycles of technology adoption, however, pundits and policy makers are anticipating potential harms to young people and already clamoring for regulation, including legislation that will limit young people’s access to these emerging technologies. We stand at a pivotal moment in defining public narratives and responses around young people and AI. It is essential that this conversation is centered not only on benefits and risks, but also a recognition of the diversity of youth experiences and an overriding concern for equity. Our hope is that this volume will help draw attention to these often overlooked dimensions of how technology both shapes and is shaped by culture and society.
A Diversity of Perspectives
The volume collects essays and reporting on original research from academics and practitioners working at the intersection of young people and technology. It explores the issues that are already arising from the interactions between youth and these technologies, as well as potential pitfalls that might await us in the near future. Finally, there are pieces that explore how we might be more mindful in designing such systems to account for younger users in the future.
- Introduction: Algorithmic Rights and Protections for Children, by Mizuko Ito, Remy Cross, Karthik Dinakar, and Candice Odgers
- Algorithmic Literacies: K–12 Realities and Possibilities, by Michelle Ciccone
- Co-Constructing Digital Futures: Parents and Children Becoming Thoughtful, Connected, and Critical Users of Digital Technologies, by Ian O’Byrne, Kristen Hawley Turner, Kathleen A. Paciga, and Elizabeth Y. Stevens
- Parenting and the Algorithm: A Perspective on Parental Controls and Guilt amid Digital Media, by Maureen Mauk
- Meet Them Where They Are: Social Work Informed Considerations for Youth Inclusion in AI Violence Prevention Systems, by Desmond Patton, Siva Mathiyazhagan, and Aviv Y. Landau
- Designing for Critical Algorithmic Literacies, by Sayamindu Dasgupta and Benjamin Mako Hill
- Authenticity and Co-Design: On Responsibly Creating Relational Robots for Children, by Marion Boulicault, Milo Phillips-Brown, Jacqueline M. Kory-Westlund, Stephanie Nguyen, and Cynthia Breazeal
- Early Adolescents’ Perspectives on Digital Privacy, by Nicholas D. Santer, Adriana Manago, Allison Starks, and Stephanie M. Reich
- Humanizing Big Data: Making Sense of How Youth of Color Experience Personalized Educational Technologies, by Veena Vasudevan
- The 4As: Ask, Adapt, Author, Analyze: AI Literacy Framework for Families, by Stefania Druga, Jason Yip, Michael Preston, and Devin Dillon
- Do Educational Technologies Have Politics? A Semiotic Analysis of the Discourse of Educational Technologies and Artificial Intelligence in Education, by Paulo Blikstein and Izidoro Blikstein
Viewing the emerging AI landscape through the lens of childhood offers insight into unique sites of power and innovation, as well as vulnerability. The often overlooked and underestimated perspectives, assets, and needs of young people are essential elements of a more just, equitable, joyful, playful, and creative AI future. This collection highlights the diversity of voices, perspectives, and expertise that need to be at the table as we grapple with how AI should be developed, regulated, trained, and deployed in ways that do justice to the promise and future of our first generation to grow up in a world infused with AI.
Mimi Ito is a cultural anthropologist, learning scientist, entrepreneur, and an advocate for connected learning—learning that is equity-oriented, centered on youth interest, and socially connected. Her work decodes digital youth culture for parents and educators, offering ways to tap interests and digital media to fuel learning that is engaging, relevant, and social. She is Professor in Residence and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Chair in Digital Media and Learning at the University of California, Irvine, where she directs the Connected Learning Lab. The CLL stewards the Connected Learning Alliance, an expanding network of educators, experts and youth-serving organizations mobilizing new technology in the service of equity, access and opportunity for all young people. Mimi is also co-founder of Connected Camps, a non-profit providing online learning experiences for kids in all walks of life. Her publications include: Algorithmic Rights and Protections for Children (2023), Social Media and Youth Wellbeing (2020), The Connected Learning Research Network: Reflections on a Decade of Engaged Scholarship (2020), Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning (2018), and From Good Intentions to Real Outcomes: Equity by Design in Learning Technologies (2017).