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Child-Centred AI: Paving the Way for Ensuring Safety and Inclusion of Today’s Children

November 3, 2023by Lorleen Farrugia0

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and artificial intelligence (AI), the concept of child-centred AI has emerged as a critical focal point for ensuring the safety and well-being of our youngest generation. This paradigm shift urges us to move beyond viewing children as a homogenous group and instead appreciate the incredible diversity of their lives, experiences, and characteristics. In this blog post, we recount our participation in the AI Fringe event “AI at a Turning Point: How Can We Create Equitable AI Governance Futures?”. Specifically, we focus on the panel about AI and children’s rights, by exploring what child-centred AI means and how it can complement emerging regulation around AI and online safety.

 

In her keynote speech, Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, emphasised that AI technologies are fundamentally about humans and underscored the need for a societal debate about AI. These societal voices have the power to make technological developments more inclusive. Ensuring the rule of law, effective liability, and remediation in cases where AI systems cause harm is crucial. Inclusive AI models should include ex-ante assessments, readiness assessment, and ethical impact assessments. Policymakers must also use concrete evidence to show that models failing to ensure inclusiveness will be economically unsustainable.

Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences in conversation with Professor David Leslie

 

Children in the Here and Now

Turning the focus on Children’s Rights and AI, Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE highlighted that children’s needs are not yet at the forefront of the discussion about AI. AI-generated child sexual abuse is a pressing issue, but concerns related to children and AI extend beyond this area, and they are a current, not a future issue. Present laws could apply if we choose to enforce them. She stressed that a language of existential threat gives us no agency, as AI systems are human-built and within our control. The debate about AI should start with children, who are early adopters of technology with unique rights and needs. Equitable development of AI must encompass children.

 

Mhairi Aitken, Sonia Livingstone, Steven Vosloo, Lorleen Farrugia and Alisha Arora during the Child Rights and AI panel. Photo by Sabeehah Mohamed

Child-Centred AI: Embracing Diversity

The panel discussion focused on child-centred AI as being a proactive approach that explicitly recognizes the fact that children are not miniature adults; rather, they are a distinct demographic group with a unique set of rights. They make up a significant portion of internet users, comprising 1 in 3 users, underscoring their importance in the digital landscape. A child-centred approach takes into account the diverse spectrum of children, considering their various ages, ethnicities, races, gender identities, abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographic locations.

Moreover, child-centred AI encompasses the individual interests and technological proficiency of children, acknowledging that they possess varying levels of skills and knowledge regarding technology and AI. AI systems are often not originally designed with children’s specific needs in mind, emphasising the importance of prioritising their empowerment and protection. In essence, child-centred AI aims to harness the potential of AI technology to cater to the individualised needs and experiences of every child, ensuring their rights, safety, and well-being are at the forefront of digital advancements.

 

The Diversity Challenge in Online Safety Research

When discussing online safety and AI regulation, it is imperative to consider the diversity of children’s experiences. Online safety research must encompass this diversity, both in understanding the experiences of all children and in curating diverse and representative datasets for training AI systems. It is futile to legislate for fair and representative AI without the necessary data to ensure this representativeness.

Our Head of Research, Lorleen Farrugia emphasised that as researchers in this field, we must strive to ensure that our work captures the myriad experiences of children, especially those who are marginalised, come from minority groups, or follow unique developmental trajectories. By doing so, we can have a better picture of children’s characteristics and experiences and help develop representative AI. 

 

Child-centred AI is not merely a buzzword; it is a call to action. To harness the potential of AI and ensure the safety and well-being of children, we must ensure inclusion and invest in research and education. By doing so, we can pave the way for a digital world where children can explore, learn, and grow with confidence and security, ensuring that they thrive in the age of AI.

 

Lorleen Farrugia

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A1-RESEARCHHeadquarters
A1 Research is a company headquartered in Malta with reach in the UK and EU through a nework of Associated Consultants
OUR LOCATIONSWhere to find us?
A1 Location Malta
GET IN TOUCHA1 Research on Linkedin
Follow us on LinkedIn for a stream of online updates on our most recent projects
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