Parenting in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

IEEE survey looks at the impact the technology could have on today’s children

14 August 2017

Generation Alpha—those born between 2010 and 2025—will grow up in a world in which artificial intelligence is part of everyday life. Robots will read them bedtime stories, and autonomous cars will chauffer them around without a need to ever learn to drive.

Those are some of the takeaways from “Generation AI: A Study of Millennial Parents of Generation Alpha Kids,” an IEEE survey conducted in June.

Six hundred parents between the age of 20 and 36 with at least one child 7 years old or younger were asked how they thought AI technology would impact the lives of their Generation Alpha children. Here’s an overview of how AI likely will be used during each stage of a child’s life.

YOUNGSTERS

Infants and toddlers will have toys and other AI devices that will help raise them, according to the survey. Forty percent of parents surveyed said they’re likely to supplement or replace a human nanny with a robot. The Institute wrote about two robot nannies on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas. Kuri is a robot that can navigate around the home and can tell bedtime stories to kids. Digital assistant Aristotle automatically recognizes when a baby wakes up and soothes the child back to sleep with a lullaby.

“Using built-in cameras as well as voice-recognition capabilities in AI toys can help parents raise their toddlers,” says IEEE Member Sukanya Mandal, a data science professional based out of Mumbai.

And instead of asking parents all their questions—“Why is the sky blue?”—children could turn to Amazon’s Echo, Apple’s Siri, or another robot to seek out such information.

“A gadget or bot could easily replace a human in some specific kids’ activities and tasks,” says IEEE Senior Member Edson Prestes, who heads the theoretical informatics department at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil.

Helping kids with their homework is another parental duty that AI is likely to do, according to the survey. AI tutors will enable more personalized learning for students. Nearly 75 percent of parents surveyed said they would consider using an AI tutor for their child.

IEEE Member David Hanson has already developed such a helper: a miniature robotic Albert Einstein that uses AI to engage students in math and science through interactive games. The bot can answer questions about those subjects as well as banter about celebrities and food.

ADOLESCENTS

Another responsibility that parents could eliminate is teaching their teenager how to drive. The study found that about 30 percent of parents would be less concerned with their child behind an AI-powered car than a regular one.

With self-driving cars, Generation Alpha teenagers might not even need to learn to drive. That could mean safer streets and fewer sleepless nights for worried parents. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people between age 15 and 29, according to the World Health Organization.

ADULTS

Finding one’s ideal mate can be difficult, but dating apps using AI and machine learning could help make better matches, according to the survey. The new Dating.ai app gives us a glimpse into the technology’s potential. The app scours Bumble, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, and other dating sites using its facial-recognition software to find matches based on a user's physical preferences.

“For future generations looking for love or friendship, AI-induced personal matchmaking will be the obvious choice,” says IEEE Senior Member Tom Coughlin, who chairs the IEEE public visibility committee. He is a digital storage analyst and a business and technology consultant.

“AI will leverage data points such as specified qualities, interests, and preferences from various dating networks and social media platforms,” Coughlin says. “It will then cross-reference that information with a database of thousands, if not millions, of other seekers and push that information automatically to compatible parties.”

And unlike many of today’s parents who juggle caring for their young children with looking after their own parents, Generation Alphas probably won’t have that responsibility. AI devices in the home are expected to support seniors’ physical, emotional, and mental health needs. The Institute recently featured several technologies that could help seniors live independently. In fact, two-thirds of survey respondents said they would prefer to rely on AI technologies, and not their children, to help them stay independent.

“Socially assistive robots have the potential to deliver cognitive assistance, entertainment, and companionship,” says IEEE Member Antonio Espingardeiro, a robotics and information systems expert. He invented one of the first social assistive robots for elder care.

Check out the infographic and interactive timeline that the IEEE public visibility committee created based on the survey.

This article has been updated.

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