Most teenagers believe that AI will not harm their mental health.  The teachers disagree
Most teenagers believe that AI will not harm their mental health.  The teachers disagree

High school theater teacher Lisa Dyer has noticed in recent years that her students are more willing to take risks or make what she calls “big choices” on stage.

As artificial intelligence expands over the next decade — going beyond algorithms to suggest everything from what TV show to watch to what word to type next in a text — she fears her students will be even more hesitant to follow their own instincts.

“The idea of ​​perfection is very pervasive,” said Dyer, who teaches at JR Tucker High School near Richmond, Va., about how her students often think in an age increasingly dominated by AI. For her students, the essays spit out in seconds by generative AI tools like ChatGPT “look like perfection. If the computer figures it out, it must be the correct answer.

She worries that her students’ creativity and self-esteem could be stifled, ultimately hindering their mental well-being.

On the other hand, Nicholas Gertler, 19, an AI and education advisor at Encode Justicenonprofit organization that works to promote a values-based approach to AI sees the potential for AI to do everything from making school more accessible for students with special learning needs to helping diagnose and treat diseases — which can to benefit everyone’s mental health.

And a college freshman won’t mind if robots save him from his least favorite tasks—especially laundry—leaving time for more fulfilling and creative pursuits, or just relaxing.

Teenagers have a sunnier view of AI than educators

Which vision is closer to what will actually happen? Even the best engineers can’t say for sure what AI will be capable of in 10 years—much less how it will affect the mental health and well-being of teenagers.

But one thing is clear: High school students and educators have very different perspectives on what AI will mean for young people’s mental health over the next decade, according to two recent studies by the EdWeek Research Center.

Teachers generally take a gloomy view. More than two-thirds of teachers and school and district leaders — 69 percent — expect artificial intelligence to have a negative impact on teen mental health over the next decade. Nearly a quarter – 24 percent – believe it will be “very negative”. Only 14 percent expect a positive impact, including just 1 percent who think it will be “very positive,” according to the survey of 595 educators conducted from Dec. 21, 2023, to Jan. 2, 2024.

Teenagers themselves are much more optimistic. Only a quarter of respondents to a recent EdWeek Research Center survey expect artificial intelligence to have a negative impact on their mental health in the next 10 years. A slightly higher percentage – 30 percent – expect it will actually have a positive effect, including 10 percent who imagine it will be “very positive.” The survey of 1,056 teenagers was conducted from February 9 to March 4.

These findings are consistent with how different generations have responded to the introduction of new technologies, from television to the Internet to smartphones, said Lee Rainey, scholar-in-residence and director of Elon University’s Center for Envisioning the Digital Future, who spent decades in studying the impact of technology on society.

“Young people throughout history have been more interested in new technology than older people,” he said. “Younger people are just more likely to be early adopters, they’re more likely to be enthusiastic, they’re more likely to think that older ways of doing things have been superseded by new technologies.”

“For them, it’s just a natural progression”

Today’s teenagers, in particular, likely have a bright perspective on AI’s impact on mental health, given that “young people have never lived a life that didn’t involve some form of AI,” said Carly Gantus, an instructor in humanities at Davidson Academy Online, a private virtual school. “They’ve always had Siri and Alexa in their homes. They always had turn-by-turn navigation [GPS] on their phones – that early AI that we don’t even think of as AI anymore. I’m sure it’s just a natural progression for them.”

Ava Havidick, a senior at Millennium 6-12 Collegiate Academy in Tamarack, Florida, had a similar opinion.

“I think Generation Z and just youth in general are so used to just hearing about the next big technological advance,” said Havidich, who is a student facilitator for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, a student leadership network for mental health. “It just becomes our daily life.”

And while the adults try to deal with AI deceptionsome teenagers see assigning their schoolwork to AI as a way to ease anxiety, said McKenna, a high school student in Kansas who preferred to use her first name so she could speak candidly about the issue.

“Students at my school complete tasks through AI. I think honestly, it helps their mental health because they’re not as stressed,” said McKenna, who added that she never tried to pass off the generative AI’s work as her own.

Attracting armies of trolling bots

But educators who believe artificial intelligence will have a negative impact on teenage mental health over the next decade point to deep falsehoods—AI-manipulated video, audio, or photos created using someone’s voice or image without their permission—as Exhibit A in their argument.

Students have already been in trouble for making and sharing deeply fake pornographic images of their classmates, including students at a New Jersey high school who manipulated images of classmates last fall. And just recently, four students were expelled from a middle school in Beverly Hills, California, for creating and distributing fake photos to other students.

AI also has great potential to boost cyberbullying, said Jeremy Sell, a high school English teacher in California. “Cyberbullying and all the things related to that, AI is going to make it even worse and more difficult,” he said.

As generative AI develops over the next decade, creating these kinds of deep fakes will become easier, making them even more ubiquitous, Sell added.

What’s more, AI could worsen “the general behavior of trolls, mocking people, attacking them, just making their lives miserable,” Rainey said. “Not only will active human trolls go after people, but they will recruit their bot armies to the cause.” This could look like bots attacking a specific user every time they log into a social platform, for example.

They cannot “trust their own eyes”

The ability to use AI to fabricate information has implications beyond cyberbullying, said Kaivin Cottle, who teaches an AI course at Burley Junior High in Burley, Idaho. Once her students realize how easily images can be manipulated, it’s harder for them to take everything they see online at face value.

“They know they can build a fake that looks real. They won’t even be able to trust their own eyes, what they see, what they hear or what they read,” which can be very unsettling, Cottle said.

Further development of AI could exacerbate another problem: students’ inability to resist social media or screens in general.

Some of Sell’s students seem to spend their lives glued to their devices due to social media algorithms on sites like TikTok, which are powered by AI, are so effective, he said.

Over time, he expects these algorithms to only get smarter, more powerful — and even more addictive, making the virtual world more tempting and the non-virtual one more difficult to navigate.

In the next decade, bots may also become more human, leading to a landscape like the one depicted in the 2013 film Her, in which a lonely man falls in love with an AI-powered operating system.

Rainey predicts that teenagers “may be sucked into a world where their relationship with their bots and their relationship with the synthetic environment will be more enriching, more engaging, more immersive than the real-world relationships they have, which are messed up both boring and complicated.”

What is the “modern moment”

On the other hand, in anticipating that AI will have a negative impact on teenage mental health, educators may project their own fears about its disruptive potential onto their workGantus suggested.

“Our education system is designed to make factory workers,” Gantus said. “And AI is like, ‘we don’t need factory workers anymore.'”

Teachers and their students may need to work through this kind of anxiety together — along with the rest of society, Rainey said.

“Now that we have our intelligence and intelligence upgraded through this tool, how do we take advantage of that without becoming slaves to it?” he said. “This is the essence of the modern moment. The question is, how do we get the good and reduce the bad that might come from it?’

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *