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Teenagers become friends with an AI: good or bad idea ?

© Unsplash/Andy Kelly

A psychologist's AI to help solve problems of loneliness and isolation? This is in any case the solution to which many adolescents who use the Character.AI site where nearly 3.5 million users flock every day.

Positive points

On the service, we find everything, completely invented characters, but also representations of stars or historical figures, and AI psychologists who interact with Internet users and answer their questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Verge was recently interested in this phenomenon and noted that some adolescents spend up to 12 hours per day on the platform. They explain that it is easier to communicate directly with a machine rather than a human, even if they also recognize a form of addiction to these chatbots.

But for the most part, these exchanges are experienced positively. Quoted by our colleagues, Frankie, a 15-year-old Californian user, underlines: “I have some mental problems that I don't have I don't really want to talk to my friends, so I use my bots as free therapy.

The Psychologist chatbot is one of the most popular in this register. Since its creation, it has already received nearly 100 million messages. Founded by the user, @Blazeman98, he would have been trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which allows mental disorders to be treated through speech.

The limits of AI

During its test, The Verge was however unable to establish the seriousness of the latter. He would even have made a diagnosis for disorders such as bipolarity and depression which require much more elaborate assessment protocols.

That doesn't stop Kelly Merrill Jr , assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, to see the glass half full:

Research shows that chatbots can help alleviate feelings of depression, anxiety, and even stress. But it's important to note that many of these chatbots haven't been around for long and their capabilities are limited. At present, they are still often wrong. Those who lack the AI ​​knowledge necessary to understand the limitations of these systems will ultimately pay the price.

Among the other risks pointed out by our colleagues: the fact that adolescents could become accustomed to the comfort of these discussions with machines to the point of giving up having discussions with human beings.

In 2023 already, journalist Insley Harris from Fast Companypointed out in particular a flaw in these “friendly” relations between children and AI. Indeed, these interactions have a commercial aspect to the extent that the chatbot is created by a company which logically seeks to generate profit. It will therefore ultimately be necessary to choose between paying a monthly subscription or undergoing advertising targeting if the product is free.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116