Will Siri Replace Mom? How AI is Influencing How Children Learn to Speak

For children to master language, they need plenty of interaction. Until recently, these interactions were exclusively with humans. However, with the advent of devices like Siri and Alexa, children have begun talking to machines. They discuss science, weather, and even their favorite Disney princesses. Technologies have also found their place in schools: many teachers use interactive games with AI to teach children mathematics and reading.

Modern parents can use apps that not only read bedtime stories but also engage the child in dialogue. In preschools, children can learn using tablets adapted to their level of knowledge and attention.

Yet, a question arises: is interacting with AI equivalent to communicating with humans? Children learn language in a social environment where close individuals actively participate in this process. AI, like ChatGPT, learns from vast amounts of data, whereas children learn from people with the intention to impart knowledge.

Children possess a unique ability that AI lacks. They learn through social interaction, using less data than is required to train language models. For instance, experiments have shown that children can connect words to objects adults point to, even if those objects are out of their sight.

Technologies can complement but not replace human interaction. Apps like StoryBuddy foster dialogue with children about characters’ motivations in books. However, children do not perceive AI as adults do and often attribute human qualities to robots. This can aid learning but requires awareness that AI lacks emotions or intentions.

Effective learning requires synchronization and interaction with others. Research has shown that synchronizing students’ brain activity enhances their engagement and ability to absorb material. Technologies cannot fully replace this effect.

Roberta Golinkoff, a researcher from the University of Delaware, emphasizes that technologies should supplement rather than replace human interaction in education. Modern developments, like Mathemyths, demonstrate that children can effectively learn with AI, but these technologies must be carefully designed and tested.

In the future, it is crucial to consider the social context of learning and ensure access to quality educational technologies for all children, regardless of their socio-economic status. Only then can technologies truly support and enhance the learning process.

Researchers note that children learn better and more efficiently when interacting with people, especially those they trust. Parents and teachers play a crucial role in this process, helping children connect new information with their own experiences and emotions. Using technologies in this context should aim to support and strengthen these interactions, not replace them.

Integrating AI into the educational process can significantly enhance its effectiveness, especially in conditions where there is a shortage of qualified educators. However, this requires developing technologies that take into account the specificities of children’s perception and ensure the safety and reliability of the information they receive.

Artificial intelligence and modern technologies can become powerful tools in children’s education if used correctly and in combination with traditional teaching methods. It is important to remember that live communication and emotional connection remain indispensable elements in the process of child learning and development.

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