How does Generative AI influence the mental health and well-being of our children?


Imagine a village where taking a bus beyond a certain point isn’t an option. So, you set out on foot, whether it’s a short stroll of 6 kilometers or a long journey of 60. Eventually, after what feels like an eternity, you reach your destination— a small clearing with huts, some with iron sheet roofs, others with bamboo, and the smell of delicious food wafting through the air. Amidst this scene, children play joyfully.

These children may not have transportation access, but today, there’s a possibility of them having a phone. With the digital world just one tap away, it’s a small shift that speaks volumes about the evolving landscape of their lives. It also reflects a broader trend seen across the globe. From rural to urban, access to technology is reshaping the way children learn, play, and interact with the world around them.

Generative AI as a New Frontier

Children and young people across the world have started to use generative AI daily for simple tasks such as generating content, learning new skills, exploring entertainment options etc. A majority of teenagers are using AI-powered applications daily, from virtual assistants helping with homework to recommendation algorithms suggesting them their next favorite YouTube video.

However, the unchecked usage of AI poses potential risks to children’s well-being. Currently unregulated, its influence can be subtle yet significant. Impact Research’s recent study reveals that some children conceal their AI usage from parents, while others are strongly influenced by AI-generated content, shaping their opinions and behaviors.

Despite limited data on global AI usage among children, the growing integration of AI into everyday life prompts a closer look at its impact on their well-being and the need for thoughtful regulation and adaptation in policy and practice.

The Dual Nature of Generative AI

On one hand, it offers unparalleled opportunities for creativity, personalization, and accessibility in the sphere of holistic learning, education and well-being.

Through AI-powered educational tools, we can provide children with tailored learning experiences, enabling them to grasp difficult concepts and develop new skills. These systems can adapt and cater to diverse learning styles and abilities, maximizing each child’s learning potential. They can also support children with their creative endeavors, encouraging self-expression, emotional release and exploration.

For children with disabilities, AI can enhance accessibility and representation, promoting a sense of inclusivity and belonging. Furthermore, by facilitating localized learning in native languages and innovative engagement methods, it can contribute to a supportive and enriching environment conducive to overall well-being of children.

On the other hand, generative AI raises critical concerns about children’s privacy, exposure to misinformation, bullying, algorithmic bias, lack of transparency, and unpredictable outputs. Excessive screen time is linked to sleep disturbances, decreased physical activity, and mental health disorders. Privacy concerns loom large as AI systems manage vast amounts of sensitive data, with risks of data breaches and unauthorized access threatening children’s security.

Moreover, AI algorithms can amplify misinformation, deepfakes, and harmful content, undermining children’s trust in online information and posing risks to their cognitive and emotional well-being. The reliance on AI-generated content in education raises concerns about biased viewpoints and over-dependence on technology, which may hinder critical thinking, creativity, and engagement with diverse perspectives.

The Digital Divide

Imagine a child growing up in a remote village in rural India. While urban areas boast of cutting-edge technologies and digital literacy programs, this child lacks access to even basic resources like electricity and internet connectivity. Without proper systems and structures in place, the opportunities are severely limited.

Meanwhile, in affluent urban centers, children have access to AI-powered educational tools and personalized learning experiences. As a result, they gain a competitive edge in the digital age, while their rural counterparts are left behind.

A teacher from one of our government schools shared, “Our children are so eager to learn, but we face many challenges. They have limited access to resources, which is why even though they have smartphones, they are unable to use them effectively for learning. Our children have so much potential, but they need the right tools and opportunities to succeed.”

Shaping the Future

As AI continues to permeate children’s lives, there is an urgent need for responsible regulation, equitable access, and proactive intervention to protect their mental health and well-being. The phenomenon known as virtual autism, where excessive screen time and digital interactions can lead to developmental delays and socialization issues, underscores its importance. Children exposed to AI-driven content without proper moderation can develop attention deficits, reduced social skills, and increased anxiety.

Collectively, we must establish robust safeguards to protect children’s privacy, mitigate algorithmic biases, and ensure transparency in AI systems. It’s crucial to handle all children’s data with care, ensuring privacy and security—guided by clear purposes beyond market forces.

Efforts to bridge the digital divide and enable vulnerable communities are also imperative to ensure that the benefits of generative AI are accessible to all children. Ensuring that AI tools are culturally sensitive and inclusive will help all children, particularly those from marginalized communities, to benefit from AI without facing negative consequences.

By focusing on these efforts, we can strike a delicate balance between innovation and responsibility. Leveraging AI to safeguard the mental health and overall well-being of our children paves the way for a future where AI enriches their lives, fosters resilience, and creates a safe space for learning and growth.

Author profile:

Richa Gupta, labhya

Richa Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO of Labhya

Richa is the co-founder of Labhya and a teacher-turned entrepreneur.

Labhya is an India-based education non-profit that partners with governments to impact the emotional well-being of 2.4 million vulnerable children across 22,000 public schools.

Her passion for education stems from her lived experience as a child and her extensive work with children from the age of 16. During her journey, she has worked with education non-profits like Teach For India and Teach For All. She has been recognised by the Takeda Foundation as the ‘Best Entrepreneur 2019’. Richa was also listed as the Rising Talent 2020 by the Women’s Forum For The Economy & Society.

Richa is a DRK Entrepreneur, a Mulago Rainer Fellow, and was featured in the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 list. Richa also served on the board of YuWaah, UNICEF India and is on the steering committee of Karanga Global. The United Nations Secretary-General and UN Youth Envoy office have awarded the prestigious recognition “Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” to Richa, among only 16 other leaders globally. Richa has shared Labhya’s journey at prestigious global spaces like the United Nations Headquarters and the World Bank.

Richa has a Master’s in Education Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she also served as an Equity & Inclusion Fellow, Harvard Ministerial Leadership Fellow and Education Entrepreneurship fellow.

Richa leads programs and evidence at Labhya. Under Richa’s leadership, Labhya is spearheading the pathway to impact 30 million children and make them effective learners by 2030.



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