The future is here: Understanding generative AI through media literacy

Created for Meta by NAMLE

You may have noticed – everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI). What used to be a concept for science fiction films is now a big part of our everyday lives as AI becomes ubiquitous. As a parent, you might just be getting the hang of the social media platforms your teens are logging in to, and now you find yourself face to face with this new tech. Technology seems to be advancing on a daily basis, and these advances can be overwhelming, especially for parents who have to learn and teach their children all at the same time.

Artificial intelligence is not new. The first AI program was written in 1956! That's right, over 60 years ago! In our world today, AI technology is being used in many different ways. Web searches. Spell checks. Chatbots. Voice assistants. Social media algorithms. Recommended video lists. Using computers to perform tasks that used to require human intelligence is commonplace. So then why is AI such a huge part of our cultural conversation these days?

One of the main reasons is a type of AI called generative AI that is getting a lot of attention. Generative AI is a type of AI that generates content – including text, images, audio and video. If you have used spell check or double-checked your grammar, you probably have used generative AI. You may have also heard of "deepfakes", which can use AI to manipulate visual content, such as imposing a person's face on a different person's body. Or maybe your teen's school is trying to figure out how to manage student use of new chatbot apps that are generating text content for young people as they do their homework. Generative AI is an important part of the technological landscape now. It's important that parents know how it works, understand the benefits and challenges, and support teens with media literacy skills when navigating the technology.


Generative AI takes in huge swaths of data that already exist in the world and scans for patterns and structures. It then develops rules for creating new content and data based on what the system has learned to recognise. Humans train the system as it learns these patterns and structures. For example, you can train AI on a dataset of information about a tourist destination and generate answers to questions about things to do if you visit that location. The answers might seem accurate, but that might not necessarily be the case. It is important to note that the outputs from generative AI are dependent on what information and data is made available to train it on.


New technologies can be very exciting and valuable to us. They can make us more efficient and more creative. Here are three benefits to consider:

  1. Generative AI generates new ideas and new possibilities. For an individual, using generative AI can give you a creativity boost, such as when writing a story. It can also help with generating new ideas and pushing boundaries.
  2. Use of generative AI in education allows for personalisation. Being able to customise a lesson plan or activity to a specific student is an incredible tool for teachers. This is especially important for students who are neurodivergent or have disabilities. It can also help with practising a new language, learning a new skill or getting extra support on something your teen is learning at school. It's important to make sure that your teen is checking in with their teachers to make sure that they're using approved technology tools for their assignments.
  3. AI tools often save time and increase productivity. This is true for generative AI also. Corporations and organisations are already using generative AI to decrease the time it takes for employees to do common tasks so they can focus on higher-level thinking and strategy. For example, some companies now offer 24/7 customer support using generative AI chatbots.


It's the early days of understanding generative AI and will take some time to assess the impact that generative AI will have on different aspects of life, whether it be on education, healthcare, business, communication or civic life. We know there are some challenges that arise with the use of generative AI. Here are three to consider:

  1. We know that generative AI can be susceptible to bias because the datasets used for training may be poor quality, stereotypical and/or biased. Remember, generative AI can only create from learning patterns from specific datasets that it has been trained on, so the quality of the information created is only as good as the quality of the inputs.
  2. As generative AI tools may take information from the Internet, teens need to continue to be mindful of citing their resources. Some of the generative AI tools include citations, but not all. And, some citations that generative AI programs reference are not always accurate. Help your teen be mindful about the information generated by AI and if they have permission before using the content in their work.
  3. Fact-checking is not part of the generative AI process. The algorithms may not consider reliability and accuracy as a prerequisite for data. As you can imagine, this means the credibility of generated content needs to be considered before being used or shared. Some companies are taking on this challenge.

Like all foundational technologies – from radio transmitters to Internet operating systems – there will be a multitude of uses for AI models, some predictable and some not. And like every technology, we will need to continue considering issues of safety, privacy, authenticity, copyright and ethics as it relates to the generative AI.


Understanding artificial intelligence requires media literacy skills. Media literacy is the ability to access, analyse, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication. Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens. The key to media literacy is learning to ask questions and thinking deeply about the information you are consuming and creating. This is important for all information including that which generative AI generates.

Many people are asking the question, "How will I know if anything is real if photos, video and audio can be manipulated by AI?" Media literacy education compels us to look beyond "real or fake", "fact or fiction" or "true and false" and strive for a more nuanced understanding of what we are seeing and hearing.

Whether you are scrolling through your social media feed or watching videos on the Internet, there are questions you can ask that lead to deeper analysis. For example,

  • Who made this?
  • Why was this made?
  • What does this want me to think?
  • What is left out that might be important to know?
  • How does this make me feel?
  • How credible is this (and how do you know?)

Remember: asking questions about the content we consume and create should be standard practice, whether the content is generated by generative AI or not. All information should be subject to analysis and evaluation.


Your teen may already know about generative AI, but may not understand where the content comes from and who created it. The best thing you can do is to talk to your teen about it with an open mind and be curious about their experience. For example,

I've been reading about generative AI. You might know more about it than me. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it because I am just starting to understand what it is. Could you show me how it works?

Specifically, it's important to know how generative AI might be affecting their education. Some questions you could ask:

  • Are you allowed to use generative AI at school?
  • Does your school have rules about how it can be used?
  • Has it been helpful to you for schoolwork?

If your teen does not know the rules about generative AI at their school, ask them if you can contact their teachers or head teacher to find out. Some schools are using generative AI in creative ways. Others have strict rules about it because of academic integrity concerns.

When new technology comes along, engage with your teen on its use and impact. Ask questions. Listen. Learn from them and with them. Review this resource together! The important thing to remember when adjusting to new technologies is to take your time, be patient and stay curious.

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