Teens Are Looking to AI for Answers About Their Personal Lives, Not Just Homework Help

Teens Are Looking to AI for Answers About Their Personal Lives, Not Just Homework Help

Jill Barshay,

The Hechinger Report

Jun 17

KQED Mind/Shift

Two new surveys highlight how high school and college students are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) not just for academic assistance but also for personal inquiries. These findings, covered in an article by Jill Barshay for The Hechinger Report, underscore the growing reliance on AI among teens and reveal differing usage patterns across racial and ethnic groups.

The first survey, conducted by Hopelab, Common Sense Media, and the Center for Digital Thriving at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, surveyed 1,274 teens and young adults aged 14-22 from October to November 2023. At that time, only half had ever used AI, with just 4% using it daily. Emily Weinstein, executive director at the Center for Digital Thriving, noted that AI usage has likely increased as more tools become integrated into everyday apps like Google Search and Snapchat.

Key insights from this survey include:

  • More than half of the early adopters used AI for obtaining information and brainstorming.
  • Less than half (46%) of the AI users utilized it for schoolwork.
  • A notable use of AI was for generating pictures.
  • Teens often preferred asking AI private questions they felt uncomfortable discussing with parents or friends.

Weinstein expressed concerns about the quality and accuracy of AI responses, especially for teens with mental health issues, and the privacy of personal information shared with AI chatbots.

The second survey, conducted by Impact Research and commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation, surveyed 1,003 teachers, 1,001 students aged 12-18, 1,003 college students, and 1,000 parents in May 2024. This survey demonstrated a significant increase in AI usage, with 49% of students aged 12-18 using ChatGPT at least once a week for school, up by 26 percentage points from 2023. Similarly, 49% of college undergraduates reported weekly use of ChatGPT.

Key findings from this survey include:

  • 56% of students used AI for writing assignments.
  • College students were more likely than younger students to consider using AI as cheating (22% vs. 8%).
  • More than 60% of college students used AI to study for tests and quizzes, and half used it to deepen their subject knowledge.

Both surveys highlighted racial and ethnic differences in AI usage. The Hopelab-Common Sense survey found that 7% of Black students used AI daily, compared to 5% of Hispanic and 3% of white students. One Black teen mentioned using AI to reinvent themselves. The Walton Foundation survey indicated that Hispanic and Asian American students often used AI more than white and Black students, especially for personal purposes.

These findings suggest that AI usage among teens is rapidly evolving and expected to increase significantly, particularly with the anticipated integration of OpenAI into Apple's ecosystem. Weinstein likened the current moment to the early days of social media, emphasizing the importance of adults paying attention to this shift.

This story by Jill Barshay was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization focused on education inequality and innovation. For more insights, subscribe to their newsletters.

Source: Jill Barshay, "Teens Are Looking to AI for Answers About Their Personal Lives, Not Just Homework Help," The Hechinger Report, June 17, 2024. Original Article URL

Original Article


Prepared with the assistance of AI software

OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

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