Artificial intelligence for children

We want to hear from you

Office of Global Insight and Policy
24 August 2020
3 minute read

For so many of us, the phrase “artificial intelligence” conjures up images of a fantastical world in some far-away science-fiction future. Whether it’s cars that can eventually drive themselves coast to coast or sophisticated humanoid robots that can somehow manage their own affairs, artificial intelligence seems somehow still to be on the horizon.

Brace yourself. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already here. In fact, it has been with us for a while, and in a very big way. And yet it is still in its infancy and is growing and spreading at a breakneck pace. 

With that in mind, UNICEF has joined forces with the Government of Finland — itself a pioneer in AI and the first EU country to release a national strategy on the subject — to release a draft Policy Guidance on AI for Children on September 16.

Girl in Brazil studying her phone
UNICEF/UN017602/Marcelino
Winny Moreira, 17, checks her mobile phone on a street in Taiobeiras municipality in the Southeastern state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Why do we need this guidance? Because AI’s greatest impact is likely to be on children, who are already interacting with AI systems in surprisingly varied ways. AI technology is in children’s toys, virtual assistants and video games; it is driving chatbots, recommending what videos children should watch next, what news they should read and even who to be friends with. 

While AI has the potential to support children’s development, all these advances bring risks, and none more so than for kids. Today’s children are the first generation whose healthcare and education are increasingly mediated by AI-powered applications and devices. They are also the generation for which AI-related risks — like an increasing digital divide, job automation and privacy infringements — must be addressed before becoming even more entrenched for the future.

Since most AI policies are designed and implemented by governments and the business sector, they have critical roles to play in protecting children, providing equitably for their needs and rights, and empowering them to participate in an AI world.

But as the prevalence of these systems grows exponentially, it is increasingly up to all of us to ensure that the development and deployment of AI is always in the best interests of children.

This draft guidance is a new tool to allow government and industry to ensure that children’s needs and right are protected. We are especially proud that so many children and young people were involved in the production of this guidance — we held consultations with hundreds of children around the world.

But we also want to hear from you. We need your help to revise and shape this guidance.

So how can you get involved? It’s simple! UNICEF will launch the draft Policy Guidance on September 16 in an online discussion with our pilot partners — who will test the draft guidance in the coming months — and will be inviting the public to provide further input on the guidance.

You can join this event by registering here. Registration is free and is open to the public.

Even if you are unable to join us online on September 16, we still want to hear from you. Bookmark this page and return on September 16 to learn how to read and comment on the draft Policy Guidance. You can also click here to receive email updates.

Together we can ensure that this incredible technology makes children’s lives better, gives them access to the tools they need to learn and thrive and keeps them and their information safe and secure every step of the way.