What is AI for kids? A simple guide for parents

What is AI for kids? A simple guide for parents

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and it’s a complex topic. However, it’s important for kids to understand the basics as  AI has the potential to change the world and the future of how we live. It’s likely to be an essential life skill in the future, so here’s an easy introduction for kids.

A simple explanation of AI for kids

Artificial intelligence, or "AI," is the ability of a computer to think and learn so that it can perform tasks that are typically done by people. AI, however, can process large amounts of data in ways that humans cannot. The goal is for AI to recognise patterns and make informed decisions like humans. 


The three most important technologies that make up AI are:


Machine learning (ML) allows computers to learn without being explicitly programmed. ML algorithms are trained on data and learn to identify patterns in the data. Once they have learned these patterns, they can use them to make predictions or decisions. Machine learning is used to train self-driving cars and maps to recognise objects on the road.


Deep learning is a type of machine learning that uses artificial neural networks to learn. Neural networks are inspired by the human brain, and they can learn complex patterns from data. Deep learning is used to train image recognition and to identify objects in images.


Natural language processing (NLP) is a field of computer science that deals with the interaction between computers and human (natural) languages. NLP algorithms are used to analyse, understand, and generate human language and to train chatbots to respond to humans.




8 Real-life examples of AI

An excellent way to explain AI to kids is to show them how AI is already in their lives.


  1. Netflix. The streaming service uses AI to determine which shows will most likely grab your attention.

  2. Amazon. Whether for books, streaming or products, Amazon uses AI to suggest items you might want to buy based on past purchases and searches.

  3. Google Maps uses AI to plot routes and estimate timings.

  4. Uber uses AI to identify risks, match riders and drivers, and track routes.

  5. Grammarly. If you have ever used Grammarly or autocorrect, this is AI processing to identify incorrect language usage and suggest corrections in documents, texts and emails. 

  6. Siri and Alexa use artificial intelligence to understand and react to voice instructions in natural language, enabling users to carry out various tasks.

  7. Spotify. Music streaming services use user listening patterns to suggest songs and playlists.

  8. TikTok. All social media sites use AI algorithms to customise user feeds.


Why is it important for kids to learn about AI?

As AI slowly affects many areas of our lives, kids need to understand how it works and affects our choices, such as what we buy and how we choose to live.


Other reasons to learn about AI include the fact that it’s becoming increasingly important in all careers and education. It's currently used in many industries, from healthcare to transportation to manufacturing. This means learning about AI will help your kids prepare for future careers. 


What's more, by learning about AI now, kids can give themselves a head start on developing the skills they need for future career success.


What are the risks of AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a powerful technology with some risks, which is also worth talking to kids about.


Job displacement: AI is already being used to automate many tasks and jobs that humans once did. As AI becomes more sophisticated, it will likely displace even more jobs. 


Loss of privacy: AI can collect and analyse large amounts of data about people. This can track people's movements, monitor their online activity, and predict their behaviour, which could lead to a loss of privacy and personal autonomy.


Bias: AI systems are trained on data collected from the real world. This data can be biased, which can be reflected in the AI systems and lead them to discriminate against certain groups of people.


Loss of control: AI systems are becoming increasingly complex and challenging to understand. This could lead to a situation where we lose control of these systems, and they start to make decisions we disagree with.


Deepfakes: Deepfakes are videos or audio recordings manipulated to make it look or sound like someone is saying or doing something they never said or did. Deepfakes can be used to spread misinformation, damage someone's reputation, or even commit fraud.




How can kids learn about AI?

Learn how to code

When kids learn to code, they learn about the basic concepts of AI, such as machine learning, natural language processing, and deep learning. This helps them to understand how AI systems work and how they can be used.


Coding also allows them to create their own AI projects, which gives them hands-on experience and helps them understand how AI can be used to solve real-world problems.


Try  CoderDojo and Code Club


Use YouTube to learn more about AI

Many videos on YouTube and other platforms explain AI in a way that is easy for kids to understand. These videos can be an excellent way for kids to learn about AI and see it in action. 


Try: What is AI: Artificial Intelligence Facts for Kids and a Crash Course in Artificial Intelligence


Try Experiments with Google

Experiments with Google is a collection of experiments that students and families use to learn from home. It consists of numerous simple yet interesting experiments for teaching AI to kids. 


Go to Machine Learning for Kids

Machine Learning for Kids is an excellent free online platform that introduces machine learning by providing kids with a hands-on machine learning experience. Its learning-by-doing approach makes it a valuable AI teaching resource.


Listen to AI Podcasts

AIKidsProgramming is the best place for kids to learn about Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning. It's also ideal for them to get regular updates, news, articles, coding toys, tools, books, tutorials and exciting information about AI Machine Learning.


Fun AI facts for kids

  • The term "artificial intelligence" was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Claude Shannon, and Nathaniel Rochester.

  • The first AI program to beat a human at a game was a chess program called Deep Blue, which defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997.

  • The first AI chatbot was created in 1966 and was called ELIZA.

  • AI is being used to develop new drugs and treatments for diseases. 

  • AI is also being used to fight climate change. For example, an AI system called DeepMind Energy is being used to develop more efficient energy generation and use.

  • AI is even being used to create art. For example, Imagen's AI system can create realistic images from text descriptions.

  • According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the spending on AI will surpass £40 billion by 2025.

  •  Chinese scientists created AlphaDog - an AI robot dog that, beyond serving as a pet, could also help with delivery, bussing in restaurants, and aiding the visually impaired.

  • Sophia is a social humanoid robot developed by Hanson Robots in 2016. Sophia can hold conversations using speech recognition technology developed by Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and extracts data from exchanges to improve her responses. 

  • In 2017, Sophia was given Saudi Arabian citizenship, making her the first robot to receive citizenship in any country.


AI, banking and money

AI is also significantly impacting the world of banking and how we use and save our money. Which makes it another element to bring into your discussions about money management and financial literacy. Positive impacts in this area include:


  • Personal finance management apps: AI-powered personal finance management apps can help people track their spending, set budgets, and save money. These apps can use machine learning to identify patterns in spending and make recommendations for how users can improve their money management.

  • Fraud detection: AI detects fraudulent transactions, such as credit card fraud and identity theft. AI systems can analyse large amounts of data to identify suspicious activity.

  • Investment advice: AI is being used to provide investment advice. AI systems can analyse financial markets and predict future short- and long-term savings returns.

  • Robo-advisors: Robo-advisors are automated investment services that use AI to manage portfolios. Robo-advisors can help people invest their money more effectively and efficiently.

  • Customer service: Chatbots can answer customer questions, resolve issues, and provide support. This can help banks to improve customer satisfaction.


Teaching kids money skills with GoHenry

Kids learn best by doing. So show them how to manage money for themselves with a GoHenry prepaid kids debit card.  Available for kids aged 6-18, GoHenry is a safe way for kids to practise their financial literacy skills. There’s a companion app for parents which allows you to pay pocket money, monitor spending, top up when necessary and create saving pots. Money Missions is our in-app financial education tool, allowing your kids  to explore various financial topics, from budgeting to saving and more. 





Written by Anita Naik Published Dec 11, 2023 ● 5 min. read