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UNESCO recommends 13 years as minimum age for AI use in schools

The U.N. agency's first global guidance urges governments to quickly regulate generative AI in education and research.


A new set of guidelines from the U.N. agency for education, science and culture calls on nations to set the rules for the use of generative artificial intelligence in schools and research – and to impose age limits for users.

UNESCO also urged governments on Thursday to expand data protections and user privacy rules with fast-developing publicly available tech tools such as ChatGPT that can create audio, images, text and video on command.

"Generative AI can be a tremendous opportunity for human development, but it can also cause harm and prejudice," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. "It cannot be integrated into education without public engagement and the necessary safeguards and regulations from governments."

Only children 13 and older should be allowed to use AI tools, and those tools should only be offered in classrooms where teachers have requisite training, according to UNESCO’s guidance.

The world's schools are "largely unprepared for the ethical and pedagogical integration" of these tech tools, the agency said based on a global survey of more than 450 schools and universities.

Fewer than 10% had institutional policies or formal guidance on generative AI, it said, and this was mainly due to the lack of any national regulations. 

New agency envisioned

UNESCO warned in June that generative AI tools were being introduced too quickly for schools to put in place any proper checks and balances.

Also that month, a proposal by some scientists and experts to create a new international watchdog agency in AI gained U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres' backing.

Guterres the world must heed the advice of AI scientists and experts who say the rapid advances in generative AI are both promising and extremely dangerous.

He called for the creation of a new U.N. agency for AI modeled after the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 1957, the IAEA was created as a U.N. watchdog agency in response to the promises and fears about nuclear technology.