Digital Education: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Kids about the Internet and How to Use AI (Part 1 of 3)


Digital education is not just a subject, it’s a passport to empowering the next generation. It’s our parental duty to understand the digital future so we can teach our children how to navigate the Internet and maximize their use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet.

We have all heard a lot about AI and its effects on nearly everything around us. While this broad and ominous-sounding topic brings with it ­concerns like job displacement and privacy issues, AI’s massive momentum into our lives is undeniable. This new technology means we, as parents, have to get to work to understand it right away so we can provide digital education to our children.

To be clear, before going any further, it’s important to clarify what exactly we mean by AI. AI is a type of computer science where machines process vast amounts of data and from this, perform tasks that require reasoning and problem-solving. AI is like a little brain, and it performs tasks that used to require human intelligence.

AI, if used wisely, can be immensely beneficial.

It can save us so much time and effort if used correctly. It’s time to let go of our underlying fear of robot rulers, commit ourselves to digital education about this emerging technology, and embrace AI because it is here, it is changing the way we do things, and it can be incredibly useful, especially to our kids. AI will be an integral part of their future. This is positive because it expands what we are capable of and the information available to us.

grid showing people existing with technology. Image generated by AI.
The Internet of Things (IoT) spans our daily life and careers; image created by AI.

As a professional in intelligence and cybersecurity, I have strong views on data privacy and our growing reliance on technology. From devices that listen in on our conversations to algorithms that tailor not just our Internet ads but also news articles to reflect our online activities, technology’s reach into our private lives is constantly expanding. This is something I believe we should be very aware of.

We’re increasingly allowing AI algorithms to shape our choices and direct us to the information sources, products, memes, and pretty much everything it wants, instead of what we decide, all for “convenience and safety.”

Consider smart refrigerators that keep track of our groceries, phones that are always listening for our voice commands, and cars that monitor and record our driving patterns. Each of these advances, while useful in some way, raises privacy concerns as they invade our space and record our lives to share our data with numerous external sources, often for profit. 

Data, your data, is the #1 commodity in the world! It is bought and sold like currency and right now, we are giving it away for free. 

AI generated image showing a virtual representation of data collection and transfer.
Data is everywhere and in almost everything connecting the world; AI generated image.

Do you realize that AI serves you news stories, social media sites, and the items you search for, based on your previous computer interactions

Do you also realize that those algorithms, which are AI by another name, do not diversify your Internet searches but instead limit what you see to only what they think you want to see? 

Do your kids know that their online searches are only giving them one side of the story? Do they know how to find out more?

The arrival of user-friendly, easily accessible AI in our everyday lives introduces another layer of complexity in the balance between convenience and privacy that needs to be weighed thoughtfully with accurate and up-to-date digital education. Generative AI, a type of interactive artificial intelligence that can generate new content, ideas, or data, is now readily available to everyone. Many people are familiar with ChatGPT, but there are many other “brands” of AI available with numerous uses; like Synthesia, Biteable, Grammarly, Mubert, TutorAI, just to name a few.

Although not entirely new, AI’s widespread availability now brings both apprehension and intrigue It’s crucial, however, to recognize AI as a tool, one that offers benefits if used wisely, rather than viewing it as the next Skynet! After all, we can control what of our data is available to AI.

If you wouldn’t stop using your Internet search engine, knowing that the results it offers have been tailored to your interests as reflected by your tech usage, then you should be using, and not be resistant to, AI. 

Just like the Internet, AI is an amazing tool, if you understand it and know how to use it effectively and safely. Digital education is not optional.

These days, I engage with some form of generative AI almost daily. It is likely that you, and your kids, do too, whether you know it or not. Whether I am using it for work to build an outline for a paper, creating an original image for a presentation, or asking for career ideas catered to my child’s interests as he is contemplating college paths, AI offers a lot of value. 

The true key to a solid digital education is understanding that AI is a supportive tool intended to enhance our capabilities rather than replace human effort or creativity.

Recently, I attended a tech conference where a digital education discussion on AI provided me with new insight. A speaker said,

“It’s not AI that will take your job, but the person who knows how to use AI that will take your job.”

This statement resonated with me, prompting a digital education chat with my kids about AI’s role in their lives which also expanded into asking about Internet tools and things they may not know.

To my surprise, they were already using AI for tasks like writing assignments, solving math problems, and conducting research; as usual, their digital education related to using new technology was much more advanced than mine. However, I knew that we had to talk about it more, particularly about the proper ways to implement AI into their lives.

Because let’s face it, today’s reality is not the one we grew up in. Kids rarely spend hours researching at the library, performing math without a calculator, or memorizing the years things occurred. Even when we know the answer, we are still prone to “Google it” just to verify, because now the world is at our fingertips 24/7.

Using AI makes looking things up and finding answers even simpler than an Internet browser search bar.

So why aren’t we implementing introductory and advanced digital education classes in our schools to educate our kids on navigating AI and the Internet? 

AI-generated image of a classroom of students receiving digital education.
An AI generated image to depict digital education.

Kids still seem to primarily know how to use the Internet for gaming and social media, but AI can be used in ways that are much more useful and intricate, and we need to broaden our kids’ digital education so we can maximize the use of these tools.

We tell our kids not to cheat, to be wary of information sources when they Google things, that Wikipedia is not always accurate, and to never plagiarize anything.

Yet, how often do we encourage them to harness the Internet as a research tool, to explore their digital footprint, or to understand the scale of information available online? Have you asked your kid to look themselves up online?

Get your child to find out how much you paid for your house, discover your distant neighbor’s unknown last name, view public records, perform a reverse lookup for a phone number, or upload an image to find out what an item is with a reverse image search tool.

Do they really know how to use the Internet as a tool? There are so many possibilities that they do not even know exist for their use and they need to broaden their understanding. 

AI is the same, and if we do not educate them now, they will be unprepared for the workforce. Or worse, they will misuse AI, get caught, and then suffer the repercussions.

We must integrate solid digital education including navigating AI and Internet education into our curriculums to equip our kids with the necessary skills and ethical understanding to navigate the digital world responsibly.

In the interim, let’s start the digital education discussion at home.

Ask yourself if it is time to start digging deeper into the Internet with your kids, researching and talking about AI, figuring out online tools and AI benefits, discovering how to learn more, and determining what AI means to them today and tomorrow. Maybe even ask an AI how to start the conversation and see what it suggests!

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Digital Education: A Parent's Guide to Teaching Kids about the Internet and How to Use AI

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