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Snapchat’s AI Chatbot and the Implications for Student Wellbeing

3 minute read
By Smoothwall

Snapchat has recently launched its ‘My AI’ chatbot across all free user accounts. My AI is a chatbot or ‘online companion’ that users can personalise and chat with. Since its launch however, it’s come under criticism due to concerns surrounding child online safety and privacy.

For those responsible for student safeguarding, here’s a round up of what My AI is, and the wider implications for child online safety, wellbeing and privacy.

My AI – what is it?

Snapchat’s My AI feature utilises OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology to provide a chatbot companion that users can interact with by asking questions and engaging in conversations. A user might go to My AI to seek advice, support, or lifestyle inspiration, such as where to travel or what to eat. It’s pinned to the top of the chat feed where users message their friends. Many of its users are children and young people. According to Ofcom 46% of 3-17 year olds regularly access the Snapchat app.

What are the implications for student online safety?

Advocates of child online safety have raised some concerns regarding the responses and content that My AI provides, given it’s a relatively new and unregulated technology.

Katherine Howard, Smoothwall’s Head of Education and Wellbeing comments: “To a child or young person, My AI may be perceived as a friend of sorts. So, understandably they might use it to seek out advice or support in the same way they would with a human they trust. As a result of this, My AI has the potential to influence a child’s perspectives and decisions.

However, it doesn’t necessarily have the emotional intelligence or rational thinking to always elicit responses in the most helpful or considered way. For example, if a child were to use My AI as a way to share wellbeing concerns and seek support, we need to consider if it’s best-placed to offer the most appropriate and informed response. Snapchat’s support page mentions that My AI’s responses might include ‘incorrect’ or ‘misleading’ content. If a child is feeling vulnerable, exposure to content of this sort could potentially make a child feel worse, not better.”

“On the Snapchat Support page, it also mentions that users should ‘always independently check answers provided by My AI before relying on any advice.’ However, not all students may actively seek out this information. To help offset this concern, students need to be educated on the difference between human interaction and AI driven interaction. It’s also useful to signpost safe spaces children can go to if they need to share any wellbeing concerns.”

For school DSLs and parents, keeping up-to-speed with the latest social media updates like the introduction of My AI can feel like a challenge. Yet, it’s important that they’re aware of any new developments, so together they can help students use social media platforms in a safer and more considered way. If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on the latest social media trends and topics, we’re here and ready to help.

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Smoothwall has a host of Education and Wellbeing tools designed to help your whole school community keep up-to-date. With access to expertly-led training sessions, our latest student wellbeing solution, parent safety app and easy access to information on the latest online safety topics.

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