Austin dad developing child-friendly AI chatbot

AI-powered Chatbot Provides Safe Resource for Kids Heading Back to School in Central Texas

AUSTIN, Texas – As the new school year begins in Central Texas, children are turning to innovative AI resources, such as chatbots, to seek information and ask questions about growing up. Pinwheel GPT, a venture established by an entrepreneurial father from Austin, offers a secure platform for kids to engage with AI technology.

Originally, Pinwheel focused on creating smartphones specifically designed for children, a venture it embarked upon around three years ago. These smartphones featured parental monitoring features, allowing parents to keep track of their kids’ activities and contact lists. However, over the past year, Pinwheel has been harvesting data and analyzing hundreds of millions of teen and kid text messages in order to develop a child-appropriate language model that mimics a human-like voice. Importantly, this language model ensures that there is no explicit content or external web links.

One key distinctive feature of Pinwheel GPT is the ability for parents to intervene in conversations, offering clarification and insight into their child’s curiosity. Pinwheel’s CEO, Dane Witbeck, emphasizes that parents need not fear AI, as this generation of technology does not possess emotions and, therefore, cannot replace humans entirely.

“It really is a machine that’s just mimicking humans. It has no emotions and no intentionality,” Witbeck emphasized. “Its purpose is solely to bring you a bit of happiness and help solve your problems today, without any emotional involvement.”

Some parents may express concerns that their child could exploit the AI chatbot to cheat on their homework. However, Witbeck reveals that during testing, students utilized the chatbot in various creative ways, such as seeking advice on relationships or generating ideas for their science fair projects.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of parents believe that parenting today is more challenging due to the prevalence of smartphones, with conflicts often revolving around technology. Witbeck emphasizes that establishing a strong relationship with children should be the primary focus for parents in managing their kids’ use of technology. He advises against deceitful practices, such as covertly monitoring their activities, and instead promotes open communication.

“The general advice I have for parents in the realm of kids and technology is to prioritize fostering a close relationship with them,” Witbeck asserted. “Never attempt to deceive your kids about anything you’re doing. Don’t spy on them without their knowledge. I always inform them that ‘I am spying on you. I really am. I am observing what you’re doing because I love and care about you.’ Setting boundaries is crucial for their healthy and appropriate development. Therefore, ensure your primary focus is on building that relationship.”

Pinwheel GPT offers the initial 20 questions per month to children free of charge. For more information and details regarding pricing, interested individuals can visit the website. The platform is user-friendly and accessible via web browsers, as well as downloadable from the iOS or Google Play stores.

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