Children contacting Childline about AI-generated online harms, NSPCC says

The children’s charity has launched a new partnership with a US-based safety group to lobby for child safety rules in the development of AI tools.

Debate around how to safely develop AI tools has intensified over the last 12 months
Debate around how to safely develop AI tools has intensified over the last 12 months (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Young people are contacting Childline about AI-generated child sexual abuse material, the NSPCC has said as it announced a new partnership aimed at championing child safety during the development of new AI technology.

The children’s charity said young people had also contacted Childline about harm linked to generative AI, including the spread of misinformation and bullying.

It comes as the charity unveiled a new advocacy partnership with US children’s safety group Common Sense Media which will see the groups look to pressure tech firms and politicians over ensuring child safety and wellbeing are central to decision-making around artificial intelligence.

Debate around how to safely develop AI tools has intensified over the last 12 months as the technology has become increasingly mainstream, thanks to the rise of generative AI chatbots such as ChatGPT.

As part of the new partnership, the NSPCC and Common Sense Media will also roll out education programmes designed to increase digital literacy skills in schools and carry out more joint research on the impact of generative AI on children.

NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “As one of the leading voices helping to achieve the Online Safety Act in the UK, we have long acknowledged the need for global collaboration by governments, civil society and tech firms to drive children’s safety online.

“This cannot be clearer than in AI where a rush to glean the significant benefits of technology has led to worldwide concerns about the danger it can also pose.

“The risk children face from unregulated and unsafe AI is already far too high, and their safety and experiences must be at the centre of conversations about its development and regulations.

“This partnership will seek to do that while also empowering young people with digital literacy skills to help them thrive.”

James P Steyer, founder and chief executive of Common Sense Media, said: “To safely and responsibly harness the potential of AI for children, global organisations must work together to ensure that the government and private sector have children’s best interests at heart for all technology design, development, and deployment.

“The NSPCC, and the UK more broadly, is seeing great progress by activating its educators, parents, and policymakers, and we look forward to amplifying their efforts in the US and globally.”