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What Teens Say Adults Should Know About Their Uses of AI

To better understand teens’ perspectives on patterns of use, excitement, and concerns about generative artificial intelligence (AI), we asked over 1,500 teens what adults should know about their use of AI. Consistent with quantitative data in a 2024 national survey conducted with Common Sense Media and the Center for Digital Thriving at Harvard University, the responses were wide-ranging. Some top themes that emerged were how generative AI changes the way young people access information to assist with school, work, and their broader ecosystem, its impact on creativity, and opportunities for human advancement. Here’s what teens say adults should know. 

Teens may regularly use generative AI in their school work and learning, including – but not only – for cheating 

Some teens say adults should know that cheating with generative AI is widespread and routine. Among those who say they have ever used AI, 53% say they are currently using it to get information, and 51% percent say they are using it for brainstorming. Forty-six percent say they use it to help with schoolwork.

While there are teens who say they or their peers use generative AI for cheating, others want adults to know that they are excited about the potential of generative AI for changing how they access information and think about broadening their ecosystems. 

Among those who ever used generative AI, a few demographic differences emerged related to its use to support schoolwork or jobs. Black young people were more likely than their Latinx and white peers to use generative AI to help with schoolwork (62% vs. 48% and 40%, respectively).

Generative AI is a tool for creativity and fun

Teens use generative AI for entertainment and a creative outlet such as writing song lyrics or creating digital art. Some are even using it to optimize their gaming experiences. Similar to concerns we heard from teens and young adults about the future of generative AI, some teens are worried that generative AI could take jobs from artists and writers.

Black and Latinx young people are more likely than white young people to use generative AI to make pictures or images (51% and 39% vs. 24%, respectively) and make sounds or music (42% and 27% vs. 7%, respectively). Compared to their cisgender and straight counterparts, queer young people more often report using generative AI to make pictures or images (40% vs. 29%).

Teens bring the questions they won’t ask adults to AI

Consistent with the quantitative findings that “getting information” is one of the primary uses of generative AI, some teens recognize generative AI as a vast information source where they can ask questions and gain an understanding of things easier than asking an adult.

Some teens use AI to answer questions they are too scared to ask their parents or for advice on subjects that may or may not be appropriate.

Teens report other teens using or wanting to use generative AI to explore sexual curiosities. One respondent noted, “I think some people want to use it in really sexual ways.” -Latinx LGBTQ+ teen girl

While most popular generative AI tools, at least theoretically, prevent chatbots from venturing into intimate conversations or relationships, this use case is a focal point in AI discourse. Some teens say adults should know this is already happening.

Teens turn to generative AI for companionship and comfort

For some teens, AI is not only a judgment-free zone but also a place to combat loneliness. Many teens describe AI as a conversation partner that can fill a gap in their lives or social networks.

Teens use generative AI to modify their self-presentation. Some explore through the use of filters, experimenting purely for entertainment value, while others use it to enhance their features. Some teens note that it could negatively impact self-esteem issues while at the same time, others share that they actively use AI toward self-acceptance.

Understanding the nuances of generative AI adoption and use among young people is crucial for educators, adults, tech companies, and policymakers. Young people’s interest in AI as a source of information highlights the need for digital platforms to center safety and transparency when they integrate generative AI into existing features. Moreover, designers and developers should consider diverse user needs and preferences when designing generative AI applications, recognizing that teen interactions and perceptions are one-size-fits-all. This approach will help ensure these applications are equitable, meaningful, and useful to a wider range of diverse young people.

Read the full report here.

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