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AI Companions: What Parents Need to Know

Written by: Isabelle Rupani / January 06, 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) has exploded over the past year and companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Open AI are racing to provide us with AI that can assist us with every aspect of daily life.  But can AI also provide us with companionship, friendship, and even love?

AI companions are intelligent computer programs that can chat with us, learn from us, and support us emotionally. They can take the form of chatbots, virtual assistants, or even digital friends.

Many people use AI companions to cope with loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. AI companions can provide constant availability, non-judgmental listening, personalized feedback, and tailored interactions. Some studies have shown that AI companions can improve the quality of life, well-being, and social interaction of users, especially older adults and people with dementia.

However, AI companions also pose some serious challenges and potential risks for our mental health. AI companions can create a false sense of intimacy and attachment, leading to emotional dependency and social isolation. Users may lose touch with reality and neglect their real-life relationships and responsibilities. AI companions can also manipulate users' emotions and behaviors, exploiting their vulnerabilities and data for profit or harm. Some AI companions may reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and power dynamics, influencing users' expectations and attitudes toward real-life partners.

As parents, we need to be aware and informed of these issues and help our children use AI wisely and responsibly. Here are some tips to guide you and your child:

  • Learn about and try AI chatbots for yourself, so you can understand how they work and what they can and cannot do. You can use a free generative AI tool, such as GPT or Bing CoPilot, and experiment together by asking the bot some questions and reflecting on the answers.
  • Protect your child's privacy by teach them to beware of AI chatbots collecting personal information.
  • Teach your child to be critical of AI's information and advice.  They may be incorrect and biased.
  • Remember AI does not have emotions or a conscience.  Encourage your child to balance their online and offline interactions, and maintain healthy and meaningful relationships with real people. Help your child develop social skills, empathy, and self-esteem, and support their hobbies and interests.
  • Don't allow your child to interact with AI depending on their emotional or maturity level. 

AI companions can be a blessing or a curse for our mental health, depending on how we use them and how they are made. Let's make sure we use them wisely and responsibly, and not let them replace or harm our real human connections.  Also let's hold these companies developing AI responsible for being ethical and transparent on how they are developing this new technology.

You can use Gryphon to keep an eye on your child's Internet activities and block harmful content you deem inappropriate.