Discussions of ethical principles of child-centred AI appear at Nature Machine Intelligence

While there are increased attention on ethical AI and AI regulations, the impact of AI on children is not always central in these discussions.

In this Nature Perspective paper, we highlight that although there is a growing consensus around what high-level AI ethical principles should look like, too little is known about how to effectively apply them in principle for children.

We mapped the global landscape of existing ethics guidelines for AI (including those from UNICEF, EU AI Act) and identified four main challenges in adapting existing principles for children’s benefit:

  • A lack of consideration for the developmental side of childhood, especially the complex and individual needs of children, age ranges, development stages, backgrounds, and characters.
  • Minimal consideration for the role of guardians (e.g. parents) in childhood. For example, parents are often portrayed as having superior experience to children, when the digital world may need to reflect on this traditional role of parents.
  • Too few child-centred evaluations that consider children’s best interests and rights. Quantitative assessments are the norm when assessing issues like safety and safeguarding in AI systems, but these tend to fall short when considering factors like the developmental needs and long-term wellbeing of children.
  • Absence of a coordinated, cross-sectoral, and cross-disciplinary approach to formulating ethical AI principles for children that are necessary to bring about impactful practice changes.

In response to these challenges, we recommended:

  • Increasing the involvement of key stakeholders, including parents and guardians, AI developers, and children themselves;
  • Providing more direct support for industry designers and developers of AI systems, especially by involving them more in the implementation of ethical AI principles;
  • Establishing legal and professional accountability mechanisms that are child-centred; and
  • Increasing multidisciplinary collaboration around a child-centred approach involving stakeholders in areas such as human-computer interaction, design, algorithms, policy guidance, data protection law, and education.

The study ‘Challenges and opportunities in translating ethical AI principles into practice for children’ has been published in Nature Machine Intelligence, and has also been blogged by our Oxford Martin School and Oxford University.