Artificial intelligence, the new friend of lonely teenagers?

Artificial intelligence, the new friend of lonely teenagers?
Artificial intelligence, the new friend of lonely teenagers?

A rather singular phenomenon is emerging among the younger generations. More and more teenagers are turning to chatbots to find comfort, listening and sometimes even a form of therapy. A trend that challenges and raises questions about the potential impacts on their psychological well-being. These adolescents form close virtual ties with these digital entities, sometimes considering them as friends or even privileged confidants. This is a report from the American media The Verge which revealed this trend, which tends to spread, at least on the other side of the Atlantic.

Confessions to a wall of pixels

Aaron, a teenager whose identity has been preserved under this pseudonym, took the plunge. After an argument with his group of friends, he turned to a chatbot called Psychologist on the Character.AI platform for comfort. “ It’s not like writing in a diary, where you confide in a wall » he explained to The Verge. “ He really responds “. Other accounts also support Aaron’s, although the usage itself may differ slightly.

Frankie, 15, also uses these chatbots to “ let off steam without having to tell people about it “. These digital tools offer an easily accessible form of outlet, where teens can freely express their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment. “ I have to deal with some psychological issues, which I prefer not to impose on my friends, so I use my bots as a kind of free therapy » Frankie continues.

Freed from the gaze and social conventions, adolescents feel more comfortable delivering their most intimate feelings. The constant availability of these AIs, operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, thus offers a valuable refuge in the face of moments of loneliness or distress.

Hawk, another teenager, also spoke to the media to explain how he used these AIs. For his part, he uses them to talk to video game characters. He explains : ” For me, it’s more convenient to stay alone in my room with the lights off than to go out and meet people in person “.

Virtual but limited social learning

Furthermore, these interactions with AI seem to go beyond simple venting or a psychologist session. Aaron points out that his interactions with the chatbot even helped him to assert yourself in real life. With a slightly negative view of himself, he testifies: “ In real life, I often let myself be walked on, but with AI, I can train myself to be firm and express my opinions and interests without feeling embarrassed “. A particular appropriation of this technology, which still raises questions about potential reliance on virtual interactions to learn essential social skills.

Kelly Merrill Jr. is an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. Specializing in the benefits of communication technologies for mental and social health, she has her opinion on the matter. “ Research shows that chatbots can help alleviate feelings of depression, anxiety, and even stress. But it’s important to note that many of these chatbots haven’t been around long and their capabilities are limited. At present, they are still often wrong. Those who lack the AI ​​knowledge to understand the limitations of these systems will end up paying the price “.

We can only hear this reasoning, when we know the tendency of chatbots to hallucinate, even those who have had the best training.

The investigation of The Verge proves one thing: social relations are changing, even more so since conversational AIs have become accessible to the general public. The virtualization of relationships could one day become a norm and this aspect in particular needs our attention. We can quite imagine that ultimately, the absence of physical contact and real empathy in these virtual interactions leads to a form of emotional alienation. Alienation in which adolescents struggle to develop authentic relationships and regulate their emotions in the real world. The societal challenge is significant: finding a balance between the undeniable contributions of digital technologies and the preservation of human interactions, essential to the psychological and social development of individuals. We have work to do.

  • An investigation of The Verge revealed that some teenagers were turning to chatbots to find a form of listening or relief.
  • An attitude which proves that these AI systems are taking an increasingly important place in the emotional development of young people.
  • Even if some studies prove that the use of chatbots can be positive, the long-term societal effects of this type of practice could be very negative.

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