Young people want guidance from adults on use of AI tools, says first-of-its-kind survey from National 4-H Council

By National 4-H Council February 28, 2024

First-ever survey to examine tween and teen use of AI finds children think generative AI will benefit their education and careers, but express concerns about cheating and privacy

WASHINGTON, DC (February 29, 2024) – National 4-H Council today released a survey that explores young people’s knowledge and use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, specifically generative AI tools such as ChatGPT. The survey shows that while most young people (66%) express at least some understanding of what generative AI is and how it can be used, many kids (72%) are also seeking support from adults in learning how to use these tools correctly and with confidence.

The survey, the first of its kind to include responses from both tweens and teenagers (ages 9-17), also finds that young people are broadly optimistic about the potential of generative AI for their education and careers. A strong majority of respondents (64%) agreed that generative AI will help them learn things that they will need to know in their future careers, and 58% said it would help them improve how they learn at school. However, respondents also have concerns about AI, including how the technology could be used for cheating (61%) or to expose private information about them (53%).

The survey, which included 1,510 children ages 9-17, was fielded from November 5-16, 2023 by Hart Research and supported by Microsoft.

“As America’s largest youth development organization, 4-H has an important role to play in educating youth about generative AI. Preparing young people for the workforce of the future means ensuring that they have a solid understanding of these new technologies that are reshaping our world,” said Jill Bramble, President and CEO of National 4-H Council. “We are focused on meeting this need through educational content on CLOVER, our new digital learning platform, and through 4-H’s Cooperative Extension in-person programs.”

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • Most kids say they know something about generative AI, but this knowledge is limited. Among all youth surveyed, 34% said they know “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about generative AI, while an equal number said they know “very little” or “nothing at all.” 32% said they know at least some about generative AI.
  • Kids want adults involved in learning how to use and engage with the AI tools they have used or might use in their lives. Over seven in 10 kids (72%) that use AI would like at least some help from adults in learning how to use different tools. This number was particularly high among younger children (84% of 9-12 year olds, compared to 63% of 13-17 year olds.)
  • Young people involved in 4-H are particularly likely to have used generative AI. 60% of 4-Hers say they have used generative AI tools like ChatGPT, compared to 50% of all boys and 44% of all girls. This marks one of the highest totals among all sub-groups measured.
  • There are notable differences regarding generative AI understanding and use along demographic lines:
    • In terms of race and ethnicity, Black and Latino kids (74% and 67%) are more likely than White kids (60%) to see the positive impact of AI on their education and career.
    • High school boys are the most likely to express a strong understanding of generative AI (43%), while girls in elementary school are the least likely (22%.)
    • While 38% of urban kids and 36% of suburban kids say they know a great deal or fair amount about generative AI, that number drops to 28% among rural children.

“Like with any new technology, we need to educate, empower and equip young people with the necessary skills to use generative AI in a responsible way,” said Courtney Gregoire, Chief Digital Safety Officer at Microsoft. “4-H’s findings help us all understand how youth are using these new tools. We welcome these insights as we continue to evolve our approach and provide additional resources to those who need them.”

The survey was designed and reviewed in a process involving experts from 4-H and University of California-Irvine. The survey was preceded by ten cognitive interviews with children within the target age group in October 2023 to test and refine the survey instrument. Children ages 9-12 were recruited exclusively through invitations sent initially to their parents or caregivers asking permission for them to participate. Children ages 13-17 were recruited directly.

To help children, educators and caregivers navigate conversations around generative AI, Microsoft recently released two new resources: a Family Safety Toolkit, which provides tips to caregivers on how to have conversations with children about generative AI, and a Classroom Toolkit, to equip educators with instructional information to create an immersive and effective learning experience with generative AI for students aged 13-15 years.

About National 4-H Council:

National 4‑H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program. Our executive team and Board of Trustees are committed to growing the capital investment in positive youth development so that all youth have the opportunity to thrive through 4‑H programs. We champion the belief that young people are leaders today and when given the opportunity to find their spark, work alongside caring adult mentors and use their voice, their potential is endless.

National 4‑H Council supports national and state 4‑H programs with a focus on fundraising, brand management, communications, and legal and fiduciary services.

Learn more about 4-H and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.