Artificial intelligence is bound to make parenting more difficult

AI is widening the digital divide so fast that the majority of the poor people in Africa will be teaching and learning using methods and tools that are way outdated. [iStockphoto] 

Many children and younger people under the age of 25 face a serious challenge in defining what the present future holds for them. Most parents have not figured it out, so how can they figure it out by themselves? Look, there are fewer and fewer parents who have an idea of how the globalisation of values is impacting child identity formation. Why?

Let us begin by appreciating the difference between successful parenting and positive parenting even though the concepts may overlap in meaning. The former is about imparting values and principles of life that enable children and young people to power their spiritual and social resilience towards a future that sounds realistic and promising.

It is about the long-term outcomes of parenting. The latter is about the everyday process of bringing up children. It is a process of growth that necessarily involves making mistakes, learning from the mistakes, reflecting on the little positives that come one’s way and developing healthy open communication between parents and children.

With this difference in mind, let me highlight two major disruptions that hinder both successful and positive parenting, especially in our African developing countries.

First, we are now deep into the era of artificial intelligence (AI). Quite a disruptor of teaching and learning but also parenting. I am not a technology evangelist but I do find technological advancement amazing.

Children can now write essays and subject them to AI correction at home if they have internet access which is truly a revolution that, we, digital immigrants struggle to accept as a useful learning process. There is no homework that children and students at any level cannot assess by themselves before submitting to the teacher. Only lazy students will submit assignments of low quality given the capacity of AI to review, suggest corrections and refine the work.

How many parents who have internet access or whose children have access to the internet at home or school are in a position to critically analyse the future of their children in the era of AI? On the flip side, what happens to children who have no access to the internet?

AI is widening the digital divide so fast that the majority of the poor people in Africa will be teaching and learning using methods and tools that are way outdated. In this mix of the AI illiterate and literate, what kind of parenting is both meaningful and helpful in bringing up children who are positive-minded and successful? Of course, the ethical dilemma is whether AI is not aiding low critical thinking. For now, let us skip that element.

Second, the political socialisation of children and young people into the centrality of politics in our lives is rapidly changing without reasonable value-loaded principles. Parents are disillusioned in the political front as political leaders use corrupt strategies to win elections. Many schools are politicised along clan, ethnic or regional politics.

Institutions of higher learning have tamed student political activism. Political parties do not have records to write home on values that children and young people can emulate. Very few political parties across Africa stand for values that parents can have the guts to refer their children to. Other than securing party tickets and getting to power, our political parties are little institutions that demean the practice of democracy. What is the connection of this to parenting?

Precisely, political action is very central to how countries are organised, systems are used to deliver government services, public resources are used, jobs are created and livelihoods are lifted. On the contrary, when political leaders lie without shame, steal and defend theft, community leaders are compromised in the process of seeking survival and material wealth, teachers are mistreated by leaders and so forth, parenting becomes a daunting task.

It begs the question: What future should parents prime their children for? We often throw jabs at parents and sometimes teachers for not supporting children leading to a generation controlled by the dictatorship of relativism. Parents need support to understand these changes to nurture children.

Dr Mokua is the Executive Director, the Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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