Generative AI, parents, and teens | The TechTank Podcast

Nicol Turner Lee, Stephen Balkam, and
Stephen Balkam Founder and CEO - Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)
Kara Sundby
Kara Sundby Senior Director - Futures Practice, Kantar Consulting

November 20, 2023

  • While generative AI (GenAI) is seamlessly integrating into daily life in the United States, there is noticeable hesitation in Germany and Japan, where government involvement in teen usage is more prominent.
  • With generative AI becoming ubiquitous in various aspects of society, there is a pressing need for evidence-based dialogue.
  • The recognition of GenAI as an integral part of daily life facilitates alignment between parents and teens, particularly evident in the United States.
teens holding phones
Teens in circle holding phones. Shutterstock/DavideAngelini

At its 2023 annual conference, the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) presented findings from a new report titled, “Generative AI: Emerging Habits, Hopes and Fears,” which offered comparisons into the awareness and usage of generative AI (GenAI) among parents and teens in the United States, Germany, and Japan. The report, which was a collaboration between FOSI and research consultants at Kantar, adds valuable insights to the ongoing social and ethical discourse surrounding the proliferation of GenAI models, like ChatGPT and Bard. The survey also delved into cultural and generational responses, hopes, and concerns regarding GenAI, and concluded that parents and teens were much more aligned in what they know about the technology, as well as how they use it. 

Key findings from the report indicate that teens and parents show a balanced awareness of GenAI, with teens acknowledging their parents’ perceived understanding. GenAI is also increasingly becoming widespread within various sectors of society. The report emphasizes that the recognition of GenAI as increasingly integral to daily life makes it easier for parents and teens to be in better alignment in the United States. In comparison with Germany and Japan, hesitation about the technology abounds, and the government has been playing a greater role in its use among teens.  

Given the dearth of information on generative AI and its evolving capabilities, the FOSI report provides helpful information about how policymakers can craft useful protections around its use. One point that stood out in the report is the utility of GenAI for teens’ management of mental health, which should guide more positive responses to the technology’s deployment and adoption. To balance such revelations, the report also shared recommendations for public policy recommendations and the role of industry in maintaining GenAI as a productive resource that could flourish from greater teen and parental involvement.  

As generative AI is showing up everywhere—in jobs, schools, and day-to-day tasks—there is a need for findings and recommendations, such as those in this report, to start a more evidenced-based dialogue on its use.  

On this episode of the TechTank podcast, co-host Nicol Turner Lee, senior fellow and director of the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, is joined by Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, and Kara Sundby, senior director at Kantar and one of the co-authors of the new report. Together, they get into how generative AI is shaping the dynamics between parents and teens, its applications, and the fears and hopes that accompany this technological evolution.  

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