Why in News?
We are now living among history’s very first “AI” generation. From the Alexas they converse with, to their robot playmates, to the YouTube wormholes they disappear into, the children and adolescents of today are born into a world increasingly powered by virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI).
Syllabus– GS 3: Artificial Intelligence
- Recent progress in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, unprecedented amounts of data to train algorithms, and increased computing power are expected to profoundly impact life and work in the 21st century, raising both hopes and concerns for human development.
- However, despite the growing interest in AI, little attention is paid to how it will affect children and their rights.
- Most national AI strategies and major ethical guidelines make only cursory mention of children and their specific needs.
- For country policies, references to children are usually about preparing them as a future AI workforce.
- But as children increasingly use or are affected by AI systems in everyday situations — from playing with robotic toys that listen, observe and talk, to interacting with voice assistants — the lack of attention on the opportunities and risks that AI systems hold for children is growing.
- Double imperatives — this would mean getting all children online and creating child-safe digital spaces
- According to UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as many as two-thirds of the world’s children do not have access to the Internet at home.
- In the old-fashioned physical world, we evolved norms and standards to protect children.
- For instance, there are policies and protocols for a child travelling alone as an unaccompanied minor.
- Parents are understandably reluctant to let their children be photographed by the media, and in many countries, news outlets blur children’s faces to protect them.
- The virtual world is full of unsupervised “vacations” and “playgrounds” — with other children and, potentially, less-than-scrupulous adults, sometimes posing anonymously as children.
- Short of banning screen time entirely, parents are hard-pressed to keep tabs on just what their children are doing online, and with whom.
- With online homework, this has become even more difficult.
Right to freedom of attention
- Children, from a tender age through adolescence, are becoming digitally addicted.
- Right when children and youth are forming their initial views of the world, they are being sucked into virtual deep space, including the universe of fake news, conspiracy theories, hype, hubris, online bullying, hate speech and the likes.
- With every click and scroll, AI is sorting them into tribes, and feeding them a steady diet of specially customized tribal cuisine.
- Other insidious pitfalls also lie in the path of the Generation AI child.
AI Toys: –
- Today, many AI toys come pre-programmed with their own personality and voice.
- They can offer playful and creative opportunities for children, with some even promoting enhanced literacy, social skills, and language development.
- However, they also listen to and observe our children, soaking up their data, and with no framework to govern its use.
- Some of these AI toys even perform facial recognition of children and toddlers.
- Germany banned Cayla, an Internet-connected doll, because of concerns it could be hacked and used to spy on children.
- Yet, most countries do not yet have the legal framework in place to ban such toys.
AI and Education: –
- Finally, in the field of education, AI can and is being used in fabulous ways to tailor learning materials and pedagogical approaches to the child’s needs — such as intelligent tutoring systems, tailored curriculum plans, and imaginative virtual reality instruction, offering rich and engaging interactive learning experiences that can improve educational outcomes.
- And unless the educational and performance data on children is kept confidential and anonymous, it can inadvertently typecast or brand children, harming their future opportunities.
Rights and Protections
- The next phase of the fourth Industrial Revolution must include an overwhelming push to extend Internet access to all children.
- Governments, the private sector, civil society, parents and children must push hard for this now, before AI further deepens the pre-existing inequalities and creates its own disparities.
- And on mitigating on-line harms, we need a multi-pronged action plan:
- We need legal and technological safeguards;
- We need greater awareness among parents, guardians, and children on how AI works behind the scenes;
- We need tools, like trustworthy certification and rating systems, to enable sound choices on safe AI apps;
- We need to ban anonymous accounts;
- We need enforceable ethical principles of non-discrimination and fairness embedded in the policy and design of AI systems —
- We need “do no harm” risk assessments for all algorithms that interact with children or their data.
- In short, we need safe online spaces for children, without algorithmic manipulation and with restricted profiling and data collection.
- And we need online tools (and an online culture) that helps Prevent addiction,
- That promotes attention-building skills, that expands children’s horizons, understanding, and appreciation for diverse perspectives, and
- That builds their social-emotional learning capabilities.
Measures taken: –
- In February, in a landmark decision, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment 25, on implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and fulfilling all children’s rights in the digital environment. This is an important first step on the long road ahead.
- The Government of India has put in place strong policies to protect the rights and well-being of children, including a legislative framework that includes the Right to Education.
- Laws and policies to prevent a range of abuses and violence, such as the National Policy for Children (2013), can be extended for children in a digital space.
- But much more needs to be done, here in India and around the world.
- And in this interconnected world, the more we can agree upon multilaterally and by multi-stakeholder groups, the easier it may be to implement nationally and locally.
Way Forward: –
- Children are the hope for the development of humanity.
- At the same time, children are also disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and require special attention from the whole society, especially in the context that the current development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing profound and extensive impact to society in an unprecedented way.
- All sectors of society should attach great importance to the impact of AI on children and develop responsible AI for the next generations.
- The development of AI should protect and promote the benefits of children, avoid depriving and harming children’s rights, and help realize the healthy growth of children.
- The issue is, when AI for children causes harm, that harm can last well into their future, following them into adulthood.
- But AI for children also has a huge potential to do good — improving learning, development, safety and opportunities.
- It’s important that the discussions are held now, and that AI is designed without forgetting its impact on the youngest amongst us.
Just as India proactively helped shape the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and gave the world the principle of Ahimsa, it could also galvanise the international community around, ensuring an ethical AI for Generation AI.Discuss.