“Teens and AI: Virtual Girlfriend and Virtual Boyfriend Bots”

For the past year in my trainings, I’ve been discussing AI girlfriend/boyfriend apps. I believe it’s crucial for parents to be aware of these apps and recognize that youth may turn to them out of curiosity, boredom, peer isolation, or loneliness. With over 30 years of experience working with youth, I’ve observed a decline in their ability to communicate with each other due to technology’s influence. Often, when I discuss a new relationship that a teen has entered, technology has played a role in initiating their young love. Similarly, when there’s a breakup, it’s almost certain that technology was the platform where it occurred. Youth seem to struggle more than ever with face-to-face conversations and relationships. Nearly every day, I find myself role-playing with youth on how to engage in a conversation with a significant other and how to provide the in-person attention necessary for a healthy relationship. I don’t believe that resorting to an AI girlfriend or boyfriend will aid in the development of the interpersonal social skills required to nurture a healthy dating relationship. Our colleagues at the Cyberbullying Research Center have crafted an excellent blog post on how to discuss this new technology with youth without resorting to fear-based messaging. It’s a valuable resource worth reading! ~ Ryan