An inclusive design approach that includes the involvement of young users, their parents and local communities throughout the lifecycle of an artificial intelligence project is critical to empowering children and responsible AI innovation.
If children are going to interact with AI systems, for example by sharing their stories and feelings with a simultaneous robot, their attitudes and preferences must be taken into account in the design process, so that the AI application not only meets their needs but also respects their rights.
In addition, involving children, their parents, and other relevant local actors can help ensure that AI systems are fair and non-discriminatory.
UNICEF’s policy guidelines recommend that children should be able to use AI products or services regardless of their age, gender identity, geographic and cultural diversity.
Furthermore, most national AI strategies and critical ethical guidelines only mention children and their specific needs incidentally. As for country policies, references to children are usually in the context of preparing them to work in an AI-centric economy.
But as children increasingly use or are affected by AI systems in everyday situations, there is an increasing lack of attention to the opportunities and risks of AI systems for children.
Working on the design of AutismVR, a VR and AI-based game that helps parents, teachers, and siblings empathize and interact with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the team at Emacy 3D Interviews and participatory testing sessions with children with ASD and their caregivers.
Interestingly, Imìsí 3D followed expert-recommended methods of engagement, such as using a communication partner, often parents, as a proxy for eliciting feedback from children with ASD.
Building on this inclusive process, the game has been reformulated to better raise awareness of neurodiversity and prevent discrimination, gender stigma or other bias.
AI systems are not magic. The people who design, train and supervise AI, whether it is the people setting AI policies and strategies, the software programmers building the AI systems, who collect and tag the data they use, or the individuals who interact with it. This means that if everyone in the AI ecosystem works together, children can grow up in an AI world where their rights are guaranteed.
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