AI for children

AI systems are "machine-based systems that can, given a set of human-defined objectives, make predictions, recommendations, or decisions that influence real or virtual environments" --- OECD's Recommendation of the Council of Artificial Intelligence.

AI algorithms are starting to play a variety of roles in the digital ecosystems of children - being embedded in the connected toys, apps and services they interact with on a daily basis for learning, entertainment or keeping them safe. Yet, understanding the ways that AI-systems are being used in systems for children, and their harm and impact is still a new and emerging area of investigation.

Our AI for Children project has the following missions:

  • Support children's self autonomy in the age of AI

  • Investigate new frameworks for assessing age-appropriateness of AI algorithms

  • Research new respectual AI system design patterns for children

AI for Children

The Policy Guidance on AI for Children published by UNICEF in 2020 articulated the opportunites that can be offerred by AI for children, including

  • Aid children’s education and development, in the form of virtual monitoring, adaptive/personalised learning or social robots

  • Contribute to better health outcomes for children, by a faster and more efficient way of process a huge amount of health-related data or providing emotional support for children

  • Support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in a way to advance children’s development and well-being, and prioritize the equity and inclusion of children

However, the policy (p19-20) also articulated key risks and concerns related to the application of AI in children's life, including

  • Systemic and automated discrimination and exclusion through bias

  • Limitations of children’s opportunities and development from AI-based predictive analytics and profiling

  • Infringement on data protection and privacy rights

  • Exacerbation of the digital divide

Current design chalelnges for developers

  • Complex technology landscape to avoid/minimise data collection/sharing

  • Lack of alternatives to the data-driven economic or innovation model

  • Lack of best practice guiance on age appropriate design for children

Read more "Money makes the world go around": identifying barriers to better privacy in children’s apps from developers’ perspectives. CHI'2020 [video] [pdf] [bibtex]

future design of ai systems for Children

So, what should an age-appropriate AI system look like?

in 2021-22, through a systematic review of ~2,000 peer-reviewed publications over the last decade, and an analysis of 5 leading data regulation frameworks in the UK, Europe and USA, we identified 5 gaps in existing designs and development of AI systems for children, as reported in the academic literature.

From here, we propose a focus of 5 design principles in developing future, age-appropriate AI systems for children, taking in to considerartion of their best interests and particular vulunterability.

  • Fairness, equality, inclusion and access, which is derived as a combination of the fairness and non-discrimination principles and that of universal inclusion, relating not only to discovering the needs of diverse groups but also ensuring that all children are treated fairly and equally.

  • Transparency and accountability, to identify a chain of responsibility for system (mis)-behaviours, and present them this information in an easy-to-understand manner. We particularly advocate the consideration of accountability and transparency from more than the system perspective.

  • Privacy and manipulation and exploitation, to protect children's rights and safeguard them from being manipulated and exploited.

  • Safety and safeguarding, that is to ensure systems would not do harm to children, as well as protect children from harm.

  • Sustainability in a child-specific context should refer to supporting the long-term development of children, and in a way that considers the important aspect of meeting the developmental needs of children.

Our research finding coorelates with the new UNICEF AI for Children policy report II.

Read more Informing Age Appropriate AI Systems for Children - CHI'2022 Honourable Mention.[short video] [full presentation recording][[pdf]