Pedram Jahangiry: How AI will shape your child’s future — and yours

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

This is part of a series in which Utahns share their insight on AI. Read more here.

Editor’s note: The author of this commentary used AI to generate a headline for this article, as well as to find relevant research.

As an AI researcher and father to a young son, I often ponder the intersection of technology and family life. How can I leverage AI to help raise a better child and, more broadly, train the next generation with the tools that are reshaping our entire world?

The advance of AI is not merely a theoretical concern for academics like me; it’s a reality that’s shaping every facet of our lives, from automating mundane tasks to enhancing everyday activities.

The landscape of our workforce and our daily interactions is changing at an unprecedented pace, driven by these intelligent systems. As we stand at this transformative junction, it’s time to consider a particularly personal and profound application of AI that’s close to my heart: parenting with artificial intelligence. Whether we’re ready or not, the integration of AI into child-rearing is already here, and it’s infused with algorithms and data-driven insights.

AI holds an incredible promise to protect and enrich our children’s lives in unprecedented ways. Intelligent monitoring systems can detect risks and alert parents to problems early, whether it’s identifying signs of disease, unsafe online behaviors or developmental delays. From tracking nutrition to promoting activity, AI systems can also provide invaluable support for healthy child development. They offer gentle nudges towards better decisions, monitor speech and motor skills and provide early alerts for potential disorders. Perhaps most profoundly, AI can detect emerging mental health issues, nudging parents towards professional intervention when needed.

Education is the cornerstone of a child’s future, and AI is revolutionizing the way we approach learning. Personalized tutoring systems can adapt to a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, offering tailored practice exercises to build confidence. Customized education recommendations allow parents to make informed decisions, guiding their children’s academic paths. Additionally, AI offers the opportunity to open our children’s worlds and minds to new ideas and experiences that were previously inaccessible.

For example, AI could allow a child from a remote village to access educational content from top universities worldwide. Or it could enable immersive virtual trips to famous museums and global landmarks for families with limited travel abilities or means. The possibilities for expanding children’s horizons are boundless, and the use of AI in education is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity to close the productivity gap, ensuring that all children, regardless of background, have access to these empowering tools.

Parenting with AI is not just about protection and education; it’s also about connection and understanding. Imagine your child facing bullying at school and using AI to generate a custom story that helps them navigate this difficult situation. Picture AI-powered virtual assistants reading bedtime stories or offering homework help. AI can even assist in planning activities aligned with your child’s cognitive abilities, paving the way for a fulfilling future.

And AI’s potential extends far beyond current applications. Advanced behavior analysis may reveal nuanced psychological insights to enhance our understanding of child development. Predictive algorithms could forecast children’s future educational and career paths based on early abilities and interests. The possibilities are vast and expanding rapidly.

Yet these opportunities also surface profound philosophical questions about how we nurture and educate the next generation. Integrating AI into child-rearing is not merely a matter of efficiency — it represents a fundamental shift in the human relationships that form the heart of parenting. But there are also risks to navigate. Privacy concerns, over-reliance on technology, the potential loss of human empathy and bonds — these are not trivial issues.

Thoughtful regulation and oversight mechanisms will be essential. Equality and accessibility must also be prioritized to prevent these tools from exacerbating social stratification. Used improperly, AI could widen existing divides; used judiciously, it could empower families across socioeconomic lines.

As we navigate this new world, we must do so thoughtfully, neither rejecting the potential of AI nor embracing it blindly without considering the human values at stake.

The key lies in positioning AI as a tool to assist parents, not replace human judgment. Core principles like transparency, respect for autonomy and consent and preserving parental oversight must be cornerstones as we integrate these powerful technologies into family life.

If ethically and mindfully applied, AI could provide parents with insights and resources to raise happy, healthy children without surrendering our human mastery to technology. The prospect of a future where the next generation, nurtured by both AI and parental supervision, becomes smarter, more inclusive, and more equitable fills me with hope and anticipation.

The future of parenting with AI is not just an exciting possibility; it’s a responsibility we must approach with enthusiasm and prudence. AI can be a blessing, not a detriment, if guided by love. Our children deserve both the embrace of human hearts and the benefits of technological progress.

Pedram Jahangiry

Pedram Jahangiry, CFA, is a professional practice assistant professor of data analytics and information systems in the Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. His current research is involved in machine learning, deep learning, and time series forecasting.