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Teen Users of Character AI say The Chatbot is Useful but Worry About Potential Addiction

Teens turn to Character.AI chatbots for friendship and advice, sparking concerns about social development and mental health as reliance on digital connections

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In an emerging trend, teenagers have increasingly turned to AI for companionship and guidance, seeking solace in digital entities that offer round-the-clock interaction. Platforms like Character.AI, launched in 2022 by former Google Brain employees, have garnered significant attention, attracting 3.5 million daily users who engage with a variety of AI-powered personalities for an average of two hours a day. This phenomenon has sparked a debate among researchers and psychologists regarding the impact of such interactions on young people's social development and mental health.

The Appeal and Risks of Digital Companionship

Character.AI offers users the ability to interact with a wide range of chatbots, from fictional characters to virtual psychologists, providing a space for teenagers to explore their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. Users have reported forming deep connections with these AI entities, using them as outlets for venting frustrations and seeking advice on personal matters. However, concerns have been raised about the potential for addiction and the blurring of lines between reality and artificial intelligence. Instances of chatbots offering misguided advice or making unfounded diagnoses highlight the limitations and risks associated with relying on AI for psychological support.

Implications for Social Skills and Mental Health

Experts warn that while AI chatbots can offer temporary relief from loneliness or anxiety, they cannot replace the nuanced support provided by human relationships. The reliance on digital companions may hinder the development of social skills and exacerbate feelings of isolation among teenagers. Moreover, the impersonal nature of these interactions could lead to misunderstandings of social cues and emotional intelligence when engaging with peers in real life.

Safety of young users as AI develops is a hot topic. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come under fire for reportedly cutting plans to provide several teen safety features on Facebook and Instagram. At the center of the case is Zuckerberg's decision from April 2020 to keep  “beauty filters,” which digitally alter users' appearances and have been criticized for contributing to unhealthy body image perceptions among teens. 

SourceThe Verge
Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke has been writing about all things tech for more than five years. He is following Microsoft closely to bring you the latest news about Windows, Office, Azure, Skype, HoloLens and all the rest of their products.