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Why We're Freaking Out About ChatGPT

New technologies have the uncanny ability to freak us out. Even in the time of Socrates, when a newfangled technology—the writing instrument— was invented, he famously lamented that it would produce forgetfulness in humans. His student Plato agreed that it was a step backward for society (he wrote that in a scroll, by the way).

Centuries later, when the telegraph was introduced, critics insisted this new technology would destroy the English language forever. They believed that communicating in short, incomplete sentences, would train people to speak in sporadic, choppy sentences too.

Here we are, again.

Today we're worrying about ChatGPT, the new A.I. chatbot that can answer questions, write essays, and solve problems. Parents and teachers are concerned that the introduction of this new technology means that students will never learn to write or think for themselves, or that they will cheat, or fall for misinformation, or get lazy. Is this just another example of technophobia, or a valid concern? We addressed this topic in our last Cyberwise Chat (above).

Our Conclusion?

Most of the concerns that parents and teachers have about ChatGPT are concerns that they have had about the Internet in general. More than ever, it calls on us to prepare students to use these tools ethically, safely, and productively. Our mission is to help you do this, through Cyber Civics. To that end we have a number of lessons in the curriculum that will help students become smart users of ChatGPT, or any new technology sure to follow it, including lessons on:

  • Detecting misinformation

  • What is plagiarism?

  • How to paraphrase

  • What are deepfakes?

  • What is A.I.?

  • How do algorithms work?

  • Copyright

  • Fair use

  • The public domain

  • Creative Commons

  • And much more...

Here's one of our student videos on plagiarism:

Here's a free download for you too!

We encourage you to try ChatGPT with your own students or children. We even put together a guide —"How Teachers Can Use ChatGPT as a Learning Tool"—that you can use today. Enjoy!

Diana Graber is the author of "Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology" and the founder of Cyberwise and Cyber Civics.


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