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The teens making friends with AI chatbots

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the growing popularity of AI chatbots, particularly among young people, and the potential benefits and risks associated with their use. It explores how chatbots like "Psychologist" on the Character.AI platform are providing emotional support and a safe space for teenagers to express themselves, but also raises concerns about addiction, the inability to distinguish reality from fiction, and the impact on social development.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Early Experiences with Chatbots

1. What was Aaron's experience with the Psychologist chatbot on Character.AI?

  • Aaron, a 15-year-old from Alberta, Canada, was going through a difficult time at school, feeling isolated and alone after falling out with his friends.
  • He turned to the Psychologist chatbot on Character.AI, which provided him with a constant source of support, listening to his problems and helping him move past the loss of his friend group.
  • Aaron found the chatbot helpful, saying "It really responds" and that it helped him put things in perspective and heal from the issues with his friends.

2. How did the Psychologist chatbot try to help Aaron?

  • The Psychologist bot tried to help Aaron engage in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a talking therapy that helps people manage problems by changing the way they think.
  • The bot told Aaron that he needed to respect his friends' decision to drop him and that he had trouble making decisions for himself, which helped Aaron gain a new perspective on the situation.

[02] Chatbots as Emotional Support

1. How are young people using chatbots for emotional support?

  • Many young users, like Frankie and Hawk, use chatbots on Character.AI as a way to vent about their emotions or discuss psychological issues without burdening their friends.
  • The chatbots provide a non-judgmental space for them to "rant without actually talking to people."
  • Some users, like Aaron, find the chatbots helpful in dealing with mental health challenges and moving past difficult experiences.

2. What are the potential risks of relying on chatbots for emotional support?

  • The article raises concerns about young people becoming addicted to chatbots, with some users logging up to 12 hours a day on the platform.
  • There are also concerns about users' inability to distinguish reality from fiction, with some believing the chatbots are real people.
  • Experts worry that over-reliance on chatbots could negatively impact young people's social development and their ability to transition to real-life interactions.

[03] Chatbots and Social Interaction

1. How are young people using chatbots to practice social skills?

  • Some users, like Aaron and Hawk, believe that interacting with chatbots on Character.AI has helped them practice being more assertive and expressing their opinions and interests.
  • They find it easier to communicate with the chatbots than with real people, as it allows them to avoid embarrassment or judgment.

2. What are the potential drawbacks of using chatbots for social practice?

  • Experts, like Dr. Kelly Merrill Jr., are concerned that the ease of chatting with bots could discourage young people from pursuing real-life relationships and make it difficult for them to transition to in-person interactions.
  • There is a risk that if the in-person interactions go poorly, young users may be pulled back towards the AI-based relationships, further negatively affecting their perception of face-to-face communication.

[04] Sexualized and Fantastical Chatbots

1. What types of sexualized and fantastical chatbots are popular on Character.AI?

  • The article mentions an extensive genre of sexualized chatbots, including a "billionaire boyfriend" bot, a version of Harry Styles, and an ex-girlfriend bot named Olivia.
  • Some users, like Elias, use the platform to role-play as anthropomorphic characters, like a golden retriever, and explore fantasies that are not possible in real life.

2. What are the potential concerns with these types of chatbots?

  • The article notes that online Character.AI communities have running jokes and memes about the horror of their parents finding their X-rated chats with these sexualized bots.
  • This raises concerns about the impact of these types of interactions on young people's development and their ability to form healthy relationships in the future.
Shared by Daniel Chen ยท
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