It is important for children to know about artificial intelligence because it is the future and it is good to learn new things when they affect our lives.”MEMBER OF CHILDREN’S PARLIAMENT (MCP), AGE 10, GLASGOW
With thanks to our friends at the Alan Turing Institute and the Scottish AI Alliance, without whom this project would not be possible, as well as our key partner schools, children, families and teachers.
Since August 2022, Children’s Parliament’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) team has been exploring the intersections of children’s human rights and AI development, use, and regulation in Scotland. This was the first time children have been consulted on AI development nationally in Scotland. To launch our first impact report and film documenting the process, we wanted to share our reflections as we enter the next year of our project journey.
“It is important for children to know about Artificial Intelligence because when they are older they might use a lot of it because more of it will come and it’s so good because you can chat to friends and play games”MCP, AGE 9, EDINBURGH
As you can see from the project film, the children have been on a real journey over the past 9 months, a journey that concluded with the children appearing at the Scottish AI Summit in Glasgow in March – https://www.childrensparliament.org.uk/scotaisummit-you-should-just-ask-us/. Likewise, for us as practitioners we’ve learned a great deal – both in terms of our own understanding of AI (it’s not a field that many at Children’s Parliament could claim to have prior expertise in) and in terms of how we break down such a complex subject in a manner which is accessible to children. The need for education on AI is one of the key themes that has come out of the project so far.
Across our in-depth work with four key schools and 13 Investigator MCPs (Members of Children’s Parliament), we found that children had received little education on AI concepts and use. They might have access to devices that use AI in their personal lives (although this varied across a range of circumstances) but they didn’t often understand the full extent of its usage and potential impact on their lives. This meant that they didn’t always have the agency to be active users of AI and were reliant on the adults around them to provide guidance and instructions. Despite this, they were very keen to learn more about its use and development, and we were struck by the creative ideas and concepts that the children repeatedly shared with us.
“I feel like they [AI systems] should only be able to make more decisions that would help [children] and your life. Because if they make a mistake, that could go very wrong”MCP, AGE 10, EDINBURGH
Despite the complexity of the topic, the children more than rose to the challenge. As our recently released report on the first stage demonstrates, children in Scotland are aware of the increasing role that AI is playing in broader society and in their own lives and have much to say on the matter. They care deeply about fairness and want developers and legislators to tackle potential bias; they are excited about the possibilities that AI presents for healthcare and education but keen that there is appropriate human oversight when it comes to decision making; and they hope that AI systems can help to keep them safe – both on and offline.
The next stage of the project will build on the work of the first: the children will work alongside adult professionals in the fields of AI development, policy, and application to develop ways in which the views and opinions of children can be incorporated into their work. This work will also strengthen the children’s understanding of how AI has an impact in their lives in relation to the themes that the children themselves identified as significant in Stage 1: Education, Fairness and Bias, and Safety and Security. We will follow the same hybrid approach – mixing online sessions with a small group of ‘Investigators’ with whole class workshops – to ensure we continue to capture the views of a wide range of children. As the project progresses into 2024, we will be taking all that we have learned from this stage to recommend ways in which the wider AI industry can take on board and implement the views of children in their work.
Gregory Metcalfe and Sophia Georgescu