How to not go to jail, get kicked out of college, or get fined tens of thousands of dollars or more

ai chatgpt Mar 25, 2023

If you haven’t heard about ChatGPT by now it’s evident that you’re not on the internet. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important for you to understand, because the kids and young adults in your family either do or will know and will use it, or something similar. Our job as parents is to protect them from the repercussions of their naive actions, or even better, prevent them from taking those actions in the first place. 

So here’s a little to get up to date and what your kids NEED to know going forward so that they don’t get into serious legal trouble by using it.

What is Chat GPT?

The short version, it’s an artificial intelligence language learning tool. It responds to the user by taking information from the input it was given by its developers and responds back with what usually sounds like a coherent string of words. 

How people are using it

It’s being used in multiple ways as a tool for research, to write outlines or create spreadsheets. And much more.

A few things to note:

ChatGPT sometimes writes coherent but false or ridiculous answers. You need to fact check. Don’t use it for legal, tax, or health information.

The risk to your teen or college student

Since it is getting its information from elsewhere, and it does not “think” for itself, there is a huge risk of plagiarism in its responses. Use it for information, to spur your content, to get your creativity started. Do not “publish” something written by AI. There are plagiarism apps you can use to check your own work but they cost $. However, you can bet money on the fact that your school does provide that software to instructors and professors. Don’t risk getting kicked out of college (or being fired from your job.)

Why doesn’t it know about current events?

Since it only gets its info from the input from 2021 and earlier it does not have current information. (There will be incremental updates to its database.) It’s not great with historical facts either so don’t write a history paper using it!

False: It’s AI so it learns from user input. 🤦🏼‍♀️

No, it does not “learn” from other user input. It only gets input from its updates. However, it does learn from “you” how you want it to respond. (See next paragraph.)

How to get the most out of it

Do not start a new chat. It learns from you, how you want it to “respond” to your prompt. When you start a new chat, information you gave it in a previous “chat” thread does not exist in its “memory” and will not be in the new response. For example, if you are asking how your mom would respond to a question, you have to first tell it about your mom. In a new chat, it can’t give an accurate response to another question about your mom.

It does not have access to the internet

Chat GPT can only use the info that was fed to it by its creators, or the info you give it in your prompt, to formulate a response.

Is my information safe?

It’s still a computer and there are still bugs. Don’t ask questions that would be personal or have personal information. Your info could be exposed.:

Your kid is undoubtedly thinking: Can I use it to write my papers, or college application essays?

This was one of the first “OMG” moments parents and, I’m sure, administrators had when ChatGPT came out last fall. Parents especially are concerned that savvy kids using it will have fabulously written college application essays, and their kid won’t stand a chance.

A number of parents tested it using admissions essay prompts. Yes, it produced a well written essay. 

However, those of us who are used to reading college and scholarship essays could spot it right away. There’s no humanity in it. It’s dry. Not something you can put your finger on, specifically. You just “know.”

That said, just a few months after ChatGPT was released a Princeton college student created an AI app that detects whether text was written by Chat GPT. (I knew it was coming but would never have predicted it would come that quickly.) There are many more apps today that can detect AI written text.

The consequences of plagiarism:

On college application: automatic rejection 

In an academic setting: suspension or expulsion, risk to your reputation.

Being sued for using someone else’s copyrighted work.

Monetary consequences of $2500 to $250,000

Jail time: Up to 10 years in prison for felony charges.

So what to do about it?

Share this with your kids. They should understand that ChatGPT and other AI language tools are just that, tools. It’s great for inspiration when you’re stuck looking at a blank piece of paper. Ask it to write an outline for you! But trying to pass of someone or “something” else’s work as your own lacks integrity. Because it’s on your computer it “feels” less like you are cheating. But you are. 

Doing so comes with the very real risk of inadvertently plagiarizing someone else’s work.


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