Kids need attentive mentors more than ever in a world of growing AI

Opinion: We know kids are lonelier due to their technology absorption — and now we have handed them over to soulless voices and avatars that will isolate them even further.

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Hardly a day goes by without a new post or article on artificial intelligence and how it’s already affecting us or what could be in store for us in the future. Like thinking bugs flitting about an alluring light at night and hoping it won’t zap us as we accept its tantalizing glare, we can’t control our onward trajectory.

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There are so many angles we need to explore in depth that are precluded by our current, limited attention spans and the word limits on this essay. However, let’s look at just one of the ramifications for our children.

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Kids, remember, depend on us and our decisions for pretty well everything in their lives, and they get the future we arrange. Thus, it’s a sad and arch irony that we universally decry their constant fixation with technology and how it limits their human-to-human flesh interface and their wide-range thinking skills, particularly as it becomes an addiction — and now we wholeheartedly intensify that with evermore sophisticated artificial intelligence.

We know kids are lonelier due to their technology absorption, we know that they need greater intimacy with attentive and mentoring adult figures, so we respond by handing them over to soulless voices and avatars that will take them even further away from the intimacy we were all born to have — and have had for as long as humans have existed.

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Now, let’s examine a specific threat phenomenon. We’ve recently been learning how teens, especially girls, have been targeted by bad actors using AI to create pornographic scenarios with their very true faces on very false bodies. This can only proliferate and it can easily extend to preteens in various renditions. What we can do is use actual in-person human engagement and teaching to strengthen and immunize our kids against that particular kind of virus.

Schools have become increasingly out of touch with the lived-reality needs of kids. Life has never been so complex and diffuse with challenges. Parents are no longer able to tackle all children’s needs, even when they have exceptional skills and interest in doing so. Schools, however, can pivot away from the narrow-focused drive to “academic-ize” kids and more holistically respond to their current reality.

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As such, in the above case of AI victimization, we can dynamically teach kids to not buy into that kind of falseness. We must not reinforce disempowerment and abet unnecessarily taking on victimhood. In other words, we spend as much time as needed to ensure that they don’t see themselves as victims and that they understand the superimposing of their face on someone else doesn’t have anything to do with them. Those who create the image and any who view it or then put out jeering or leering feedback are telegraphing their stupidity, cruelty, lack of development and baseness. We teach their peers the same understanding.

It’s vitally important in all cases of power being abused to change the focus and put it on the perpetrators and to ensure that receivers don’t see the shame or attack as being about them. We do this by immersing kids in emotionally penetrating learning that both highlights their own worth (that it’s a birthright and can’t be diminished by someone else’s brokenness) and teaches that perpetration speaks solely about the perpetrator. By illuminating the underpinnings of what leads individuals to perpetrate, to deride, to exploit others, we begin to right the lenses through which our kids understand what happens around them. And we fortify our kids to not accept any shame or exposure or judgment from anyone if a perpetrator uses technology to insert their face on someone else’s behaviour — because it has absolutely nothing to do with them. We also conversely, perhaps, intercede with those who could become perpetrators by instilling self-insight.

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Calvin White is a high school counsellor in B.C. and author of Letters From the Land of Fear.

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reference: theprovince.com

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