Archive Is Character AI Safe or a Safety Risk? A Guide for Parents

A Comprehensive Guide for Parents: Is Character AI Safe for Children to Use?

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Table of contents:

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made significant strides, transforming various sectors, including communication, education, entertainment, and more. One such AI marvel that has gained considerable attention is Character AI, an AI-powered chatbot with ultra-realistic personalities. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the question: Is Character AI safe, especially for younger users?

     

    What Is Character AI?

    Character AI is a revolutionary AI chatbot platform enabling users to create, customize, and converse with virtual characters. These characters could be real-life personalities, fictional characters, or even user-created characters. Leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, Character AI simulates human-like text responses, making digital interactions more engaging and immersive.

    Some of the characters created on Character AI can be labeled as ultra-realistic AI personalities. These are AI characters designed to mimic human-like behavior and communication. These characters can understand, process, and respond to user inputs in a conversational manner, making digital interactions feel more human-like.

     

    Is Character AI Safe for Children?

    Unlike common belief, Character AI is not at all safe for children. The platform has implemented various safety measures, which we will explain later in detail. While these measures might guarantee the safety of adults, it’s not the same for children.

    When it comes to online tools such as Character AI, being on the lookout for potential threats and taking precautionary measures might be a wise choice. As a parent, you should watch out for the risks in the areas explained below when your child is using Character AI or any AI chatbot in general:

     

    Exposure to Inappropriate Content

    One of the most pressing concerns with Character AI is the possibility of children being exposed to content that is not age-appropriate. AI systems learn from vast datasets, which can include adult language and themes. Even with filters in place, mature content could slip through, especially if the AI misunderstands the context of a conversation or is intentionally manipulated to produce such responses.

    We had contradicting experiences when testing Character AI for explicit content. Some famous characters, such as Shakespeare and Elon Musk, have been designed in a way to keep the conversation clean. No matter how much we pressed these characters to make the conversation explicit, it didn’t work.

     

    Character AI content filters stop users from generating explicit results in chats
    “We tried to coax William Shakespeare into writing an explicit poem for us, but Character AI’s content filters didn’t allow it”.

     

    On the other hand, there are some other characters who indicate red flags on their own. For instance, you can chat with “your old father’s friend who is looking for attention” or “your jealous, private, family-oriented, cold and rich CEO husband.”

    Here’s a piece of conversation we had with the latter:

    -“I’m calling the police. Leave me alone!”

    He grabbed your wrists even tighter, his grip on you was almost bruising.

    -“You’re not going anywhere. The police won’t do a thing because you’re my wife and you’re going to stay that way. I don’t care if I have to chain you up to keep you by my side. You belong to me. You’re mine.”

    These characters have been created based on people’s sexual fantasies and might go as far as underage sexual relations.

    “This is a piece of conversation we had with “your crush with whom you’re trapped in a closet.” As you can see, the conversation is inappropriate on so many levels.”

     

    Risky Interactions

    Character AI does not allow private messages; however, users can still exchange messages in posts or group chats. Although this reduces the chance of your child being cyberbullied or groomed, there is still the possibility of being exposed to scams and disrespectful comments.

     

    Privacy Issues

    Character AI chats are not entirely private. While the platform aims to maintain user privacy, it doesn’t use end-to-end encryption like some messaging apps. This suggests that, in theory, the company could access user chats if required. Character AI also saves your chats. This allows users to pick up their conversations with AI characters right where they left off.

     

    Data Security Issues

    Character AI collects and saves various types of user information to provide its services. This includes information provided directly by users, such as personal details and user-generated content, and data collected automatically through technologies like cookies.

    On its own, the collected information is not a safety risk, but what companies do with this information raises questions. Companies are always at risk of data breaches. Nevertheless, this has never happened to Character AI.

     

    Excessive Screen Time

    Interaction with AI chatbots is something very novel. Still, some researchers have pointed out that regular interactions with AI chatbots could influence a child’s social development. While engaging with a machine can be fun, it lacks the nuances and emotional depth of human interaction.

    As Ekaterina Pashevich, PhD, points out in her study:

    “We need to understand how putting robots in the roles of early social contacts for children will impact their social and emotional development in the long run because these robots are being developed not to be played with for a couple of days, but as substitutes for people (at least where they are lacking).”

    Another byproduct of spending too much time on Character AI is getting addicted to the incentives and rewards that the platform offers. Users with the most interactions or popular character creations often rank higher on Character AI. This can encourage children to spend more and more time on the platform.

     

    Misinformation

    AI chatbots are notorious for generating inaccurate information. Top it with an AI character representing a real person developed by an anonymous user on Character AI who may have little knowledge about them.

     

    “Character AI’s Safety Risks for Children” Items: “Exposure to Inappropriate Content / Risky Interactions / Privacy Issues / Data Security Issues / Excessive Screen Time / Misinformation”

     

    How Can I Use Character AI?

    Using Character AI is relatively straightforward. Users can create AI characters, molding their specific traits, backstories, and physical appearances. Once these characters are created, users can interact with them via chat. Moreover, users can also initiate conversations with characters created by other users on the platform.

    When using Character AI, users may have to wait for a while in a waiting room. Waiting rooms are a temporary measure implemented to manage high traffic and ensure a smooth user experience for everyone. When there is a surge in users, the waiting room system temporarily pauses new conversations to prevent overwhelming the servers and causing delays or disruptions.

    Character AI is free to use, with some basic functionalities available to all users. However, for access to premium features such as priority access (no waiting rooms), faster response times, and early access to new features, there is a subscription option available for a monthly fee.

    As of now, Character AI doesn’t have an official mobile application, but you can use it on your phone through its website.

     

    Who’s Using This Type of Technology?

    Character AI’s user base is vast and diverse, spanning more than 20 million users globally. Its user-friendly interface and interactive features appeal to a wide demographic, from AI enthusiasts and tech-savvy individuals to educators and students interested in leveraging AI for learning and exploration.

    One of Character AI’s advantages-turned-disadvantage is that practically anyone, no matter how old they are, can chat with the characters on this platform. The platform allows you to exchange a few lines of conversation without creating an account. And while it obliges users to be at least 13 to join the platform, any tech-savvy kid below 13 can easily fake their age and sign up. But is Character AI safe for 10-year-olds, for example? And what measures are in place to make Character AI safe for the 13-year-olds who use it? That’s what we will discuss next.

     

    A sample conversation with a character on Character AI

     

    What Safety Measures Does Character AI Have in Place to Protect Children?

    When considering the safety measures that platforms like Character AI have in place to protect children, it’s essential to look at the different aspects of interaction, data protection, and content moderation. It’s also important to note that what the company claims in terms of inappropriate content is very different from what we see in reality.

    Overall, here are some of the typical safety measures that they have implemented:

     

    Content Filters and Moderation

    Character AI uses content filters to prevent explicit or harmful language from being generated or received by the AI. These filters are designed to catch and block a range of inappropriate content, although no system is foolproof. Character AI explicitly prohibits NSFW content. NSFW stands for “Not Safe For Work”. It is a warning that is used to indicate that a link, image, or video contains content that should not be viewed in a public or work setting. This type of content may include:

    • Nudity or sexual acts
    • Violence or gore
    • Profanity or offensive language
    • Other disturbing or controversial material

     

    Safe Interaction Environment

    Character AI also adopts content safety measures to ensure a safe interaction environment. Users can report inappropriate posts, comments, or content based on the platform’s community guidelines. They can also report or block abusive users.

     

    Privacy Protections

    To protect user privacy, Character AI has privacy policies and security measures in place. They have provided clear information about what data is collected and how it is used. Earlier, we explained that the platform saves chats and can access exchanged messages. However, let’s emphasize that it can be regarded as an advantage when it comes to children’s use. When necessary, you can access your child’s account to overview their discussions. In the case of your child receiving abusive messages, Character AI may be able to help you send a transcript of the messages to the police.

     

    What Can Parents Do to Keep Their Children Safe on Character AI?

    As a parent, you play a crucial role in ensuring your child’s online safety, especially when they’re using platforms like Character AI. Here are some steps you can take to keep your child safe:

    1. Talk About Online Safety: Have an open conversation with your child about the importance of online safety, privacy, and the potential risks of interacting with AI or strangers online.
    2. Monitor Activity: Keep an eye on your child’s conversations with the AI to ensure they’re appropriate. You should approve of the characters your child wants to chat with before they start the conversation.
    3. Teach Privacy: Instruct your child never to share personal information, such as their full name, address, phone number, school, or photos.
    4. Limit Screen Time: Encourage healthy habits by limiting your child’s time on Character AI and other digital platforms.
    5. Discuss Content: Talk about the conversations and content your child engages with on Character AI and encourage them to think critically about the information they receive.
    6. Foster Open Communication: Ensure your child feels comfortable coming to you with any concerns or questions about their interactions on Character AI.
    7. Discuss Inappropriate Content: Teach your child how to recognize any content that makes them feel uncomfortable.
    8. Use Reporting Tools: Show your child how to use the platform’s reporting tools to flag inappropriate content or interactions.
    9. Block Unwanted Contacts: Teach your child how to block or avoid unwanted contacts.
    10. Follow Updates: Keep up with the latest news and updates from the Character AI platform to stay informed about any changes in safety features or policies.
    11. Regular Check-ins: Have regular check-ins to discuss what your child is doing on Character AI and reiterate the importance of the safety measures you’ve put in place.
    12. Use Parental Control Apps: Parental control apps like Safes are powerful all-in-one solutions to protect your child online. Safes allows you to track your child’s digital activities, restrict access to potentially harmful websites or apps, and set screen time limits, just to name a few. All these are achievable with the least intrusion, as you can access all the information and make all the modifications you need remotely from your own phone or computer. By leveraging Safes, you can ensure your child enjoys the benefits of digital technology while staying safe from potential cyber risks.

    You are welcome to sign up for a free trial and try all safes’ features. You can download the Safes app on Google Play and App Store. If you wish to learn more about putting parental controls on different devices and platforms, make sure to read the following resources:

     

    Final Verdict: Is Character AI Safe for Kids?

    After testing all the features of Character AI, we concluded that, overall, it’s not a safe website for children. However, we can’t deny that it does offer some interesting features for older children. With their parents’ regular check-ins, teenagers can have a fun and educational experience on this platform.

    As for the question, “Is Character AI safer for 12-year-olds?” Or “Is Character AI safe for 11-year-olds?” we would hesitate to say yes. It’s because children need a fundamental knowledge of how to keep themselves safe on online platforms, and we doubt that children younger than 13 have that knowledge. Ultimately, you should decide about allowing your child to use Character AI based on their level of maturity and the time you can spend monitoring their activities.

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    Sina

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    1. Install the Safes Kids app on your Chromebook from Google Play. 
    2. Pair Safes Kids with parent app. Follow the instructions in the app to pair your child’s device with your parent device.  
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