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The Interface of AI and Children Rights: Risks and Opportunities

By: Saloni Neema* |


Artificial intelligence (AI) is an emerging technology in the field of computer science that focuses on creating intelligent machines that can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence. While AI is a field of science with many approaches, advances in machine learning, deep learning and promotes a paradigm shift in nearly every field of the tech industry.

According to analysts, artificial intelligence, or AI, would have a significant effect on our culture, and now is the time to plan for a quickly evolving AI-powered economy. Children today are the first generation to have their education mediated by AI-powered apps and devices such as Brainly, Adoption of voice assistants, Personalized learning, Siri App, and Mika. They are also the generation for whom AI-related threats such as a widening digital divide, work automation, and privacy invasions must be resolved before the technology becomes even more prevalent in the future. The expansion and deployment of AI are far outpacing our ability to understand its implications and especially its impact on children. While there are many unknowns about Artificial Intelligence, we do know that it will have an effect on nearly every aspect of our lives and that in many ways the impacts will be greater for children from how they are conceived and born to the resources and learning methods available to them, as well as the occupations they will be trained for. This truth entails a great deal of both opportunity and risk. The problem is that when AI harms children, the harm will last a long time and follow them into adulthood. However, AI for children has a ton of potential in terms of improving learning, growth, protection, and opportunities. It's crucial that all these discussions take place now because the future well-being in every nation depends on the stable growth of children and the cost of disappointing our future generations is immense.


Right to Protection against Exploitation, Abuse, and Discrimination

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race…. It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

The role of artificial intelligence in promoting prejudice is well known, and it is currently a trending topic in the ethics debate. To avoid discriminatory consequences, we must be conscious, vigilant, and deliberate. Unchecked use of AI/ Machine learning to decide who gets access to what resources pose a significant risk of reinforcing historical bias and denying children a fair chance in life. Also, Article 24 of the ICCPR (The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) states that “Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the state.” In India, the divide between the digital have and have- nots was tragically underscored last year by the suicide of a young Delhi university student whose parents couldn’t afford a laptop or Smartphone at home. One of the most pressing concerns is that not everyone can tap into the opportunities offered by AI transformation. Article 39 (f) of the Indian Constitution mandates the “state to provide opportunities and facilities for children to grow in a safe, free, and dignified manner, as well as to protect childhood and youth from abuse and moral and material abandonment.” “According to UNICEF and international Telecommunications Union (ITU), as many as two-thirds of the world’s children do not have access to the Internet at home.” The UK's 2020 exam disaster is a perfect example of how AI and algorithms can do harm to children. Since COVID-19 made exams difficult, children's grades were decided by an algorithm. Child abuse has risen dramatically, whether it be by online or physical exploitation. With technology infiltrating every industry, manipulating and morphing a child's picture for monetary gain has become easier. According to a study published by the Internet Watch Foundation in the United Kingdom, online child abuse increased by 50% during the COVID 19 lockdown. Despite the numerous strategies adopted to reduce cases of child violence international organizations have unquestionably failed to meet their objectives. The Indian government has implemented robust policies to protect children's rights and well-being, including a legal framework that includes the Right to Education. Children in digital space will benefit from laws and policies such as the National Policy for Children, 2013 designed to forbid a range of abuses and violence. In 2018, the NITI Aayog released a draft National Strategy for AI, outlining its research, adoption, and commercialization in education, healthcare, and various other sectors.

Unless we take rapid and concerted action to close this digital divide, AI will radically amplify societal inequalities among children of different races, socio-economic backgrounds, genders, and regions.

Right to privacy of children

In the Landmark case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India, The Supreme Court had recognized the Right to Privacy as an integral part of the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which also includes the online right to privacy. As computers and the Internet have become ubiquitous, children have become more vulnerable to crimes like pornography and stalking that take advantage of their private information. The bigger issue is whether India has any specific online data protection laws for children? The simple answer is No though the Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008 provides a few provisions for children like Section 67B of the IT Act (2008), which was recently inserted, aims to protect the privacy of children under the age of 18 by introducing a new enhanced punishment for perpetrators who target children. However, the term facilitates abusing children online is not explained. The concept of online sexual predators grooming children is not specified in the Act.

In today's fast-paced society, the state bears responsibility for ensuring the protection of children's right to privacy. In the lack of such legislation, children's rights will be directly exposed to cybercriminals in the future.


In 2016, UNICEF had published a study on the number of internet users, with a major focus on children. In its study, UNICEF had cited the growing number of children who use the internet in India as well as the need for cyber laws or some kind of law such as Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rules (“COPPA”) and General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) in the United States and the European Union, respectively. The study noted an increase in cyberbullying, stalking, phishing, and data breaches, indicating that the Indian government is technologically unable to deal with these types of crimes. The report has called on the government to enact strict legislation to safeguard children's right to privacy. As a result in September 2020, UNICEF has prepared draft policy guidelines in cooperation with the Finland government as a response to foster human-centric AI by incorporating a child rights lens. The ultimate objective of the guidelines is to make children feel safe and empowered when interacting with AI programs, as well as to provide access to AI's benefits in all facets of life.


COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our lives both personally and professionally. Our ability to embrace AI has been our lifeline in this moment of utter confusion and unending anxiety. Artificial Intelligence systems can be successfully trained to assist any class of students in special need. For students with learning disabilities, the introduction of advanced AI technology opens up new methods of connecting. Students with special needs such as the blind and visually impaired and those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have access to education due to AI. The pandemic has put us in the midst of a mental health crisis. Mental disorders affect about 15.5 percent of the global population. Artificial intelligence-driven ‘bots' are now being used as robotic therapists, allowing those who are unable to access or afford traditional forms of treatment to receive mental health care.

By 2050, big data will help us a better map and control everything for more than half of the world’s population and 70% of the world's children. from waste disposal to traffic, ensuring that our communities are safer, cleaner, and healthier.


How can we encourage and support the tremendous good AI can do for children’s growth?

  • Children should be taught about artificial intelligence and how it affects them. It's important to instill knowledge of the processes that can have such a significant effect on children's lives.

  • There is also a need for improvements in the legal framework: Stakeholders in AI should be aware of and should follow the code of ethics, laws, and regulations, and technical standards that pertain to children. AI law should take into account the effects of AI on children's rights and needs, and it should be expressed in the legal framework simply and efficiently. Individuals and organizations that misuse AI to infringe on children's rights and interests should be harshly punished by all government agencies and stringent review and accountability frameworks should be put in place.

  • The use of facial and behavioral recognition tools in school should be avoided as it oppresses marginalized groups within schools.

  • Should examine carefully and avoid the purchase and use of goods that lack consistent data privacy, surveillance, and other child-related policies.


It’s high time the government takes serious action in light of the impact of artificial intelligence on children. Just as India proactively had helped shape the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and gave the world the principle of 'Ahimsa', this country could also galvanize the international community around ensuring an ethical AI for Generation AI. Experts have also expressed their fears over a global AI skill gap. It is critical to democratise who has access to and can build with AI in order to close the gap. We believe that now is the best time to start working on early childhood AI education.


* The author is a student at DSNLU, Visakhapatnam.



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