Poll: Students are using ChatGPT for school without parents knowing

Elementary students reading textbooks in classroom
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According to a new poll by Common Sense Media, students use artificial intelligence without their parents’ knowledge. It also found that parents are worried about what AI programs like ChatGPT mean for their children and aren’t as adept at using the software as their children. 

The survey asked parents of K-12 students and students between the ages of 12 and 18 about their experiences with ChatGPT and comes as more services offer artificial intelligence which can generate text for specific prompts. Large school districts have banned students from using AI, but other districts have struggled to catch up with policies. 

The poll, which was conducted between March 28 and April 9, 2023, asked 1,181 parents and 300 students about their use of AI. 

Startlingly, 50% of students between 12-18 said they used ChatGPT for school, while 26% of parents of kids in that age group reported knowing about using it for academic purposes, the poll found. And 48% of boys reported using AI without a teacher’s permission compared to 24% of girls. 

The results also indicate that parents are behind the curve regarding the new technology: 30% of parents reported using ChatGPT compared with 58% of students between the age of 12-18. 

Students were more likely than parents to think that ChatGPT would be an academic boon than their parents, with 85% of students saying they believe it will have a “positive impact” on their education compared to 68% of parents. 

On the flip side, parents and students also agree that the program could potentially spell disaster. When asked if they agreed with the statement that ChatGPT “has the potential to both greatly benefit the world or cause great harm,” 84% of students agreed as well as 82% of parents.

The survey also found that the majority of students and parents worried about the effect it would have on academic performance such as becoming too reliant on it, using it to cheat as well as the possibility of it generating “inappropriate content.” Parents relayed more concerns with students becoming reliant on AI than with using it to cheat, the survey found. 

Interestingly, majorities of parents and students want rules in place in their school governing the use of ChatGPT with 61% of parents and 51% of students saying they support limiting AI use until such rules are enacted.

The survey found overwhelming support for several policies such as prohibiting ChatGPT until there are rules governing its use, barring its use during tests and setting age limits.

Many school districts across the country have banned the use of ChatGPT, which uses a large-language model to create seemingly-organic AI-generated text responses out of the massive cache of written material it has been trained on. 

The New York City Department of Education banned ChatGPT on school-owned networks and devices earlier this year after schools requested them to do so. Other school districts including the Los Angeles Unified School District have followed suit. 

In April, Detroit Public Schools Community District drafted a new policy prohibiting students from using AI programs without the express permission of a teacher. 

Brendan Clarey
Brendan Clarey is K-12 editor at Chalkboard Review. Reach him at bclarey@franklinnews.org.

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