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Survey results highlight parents' thoughts on AI writing, like ChatGPT, in education

Parents and guardians play a crucial role in shaping and mediating children's educational experience. At home, we have the opportunity to build upon what kids learn in the classroom, as well as the responsibility to teach and model the practices of personal integrity and critical thinking that will serve them in and out of school.

David Adamson
David Adamson
Principal Machine Learning Scientist

Parents and guardians play a crucial role in shaping and mediating children's educational experience. At home, we have the opportunity to build upon what kids learn in the classroom, as well as the responsibility to teach and model the practices of personal integrity and critical thinking that will serve them in and out of school.

As a former high school teacher, I recognize the importance of supporting educational development and original thinking, as well as identifying and implementing effective strategies to foster and assess student skill development. How students engage with the world - how they communicate, how they consume information, and how they practice skills - are changing rapidly. Our tools and teaching practices need to adapt to remain relevant.

Given the fast-paced developments in the world of AI writing, and Turntin’s recent launch of a new AI writing detection feature, we wanted to know how parents and guardians thought about the use of artificial intelligence in the context of academic integrity.

What do parents think of AI text generators?

In March, Turnitin partnered with Atomik Research to survey 1,011 parents and guardians of high school students, grades 9 through 12, in the United States. The questions focused on how parents felt about the use of AI writing tools in education. We hoped the survey would provide insights on awareness and potential ways educators could partner with families to address AI writing and AI writing misconduct.

Here’s what parents and guardians of high school students think:

  • Overall, nearly two-thirds, or 65 percent, of parents and guardians of high school students said they had heard of ChatGPT or Google Bard.
  • Nearly eight-in-ten, or 78 percent, think “using AI writing tools for schoolwork is a form of cheating.”
  • 80 percent feel equipped to talk with their child or children about the appropriate use of AI writing tools like ChatGPT in their schoolwork.
  • 84 percent of millennial parents and guardians of high school students said they felt prepared to discuss AI writing tools, compared to 74 percent of Gen X parents and guardians.
  • Nearly half, or 45 percent, said they were “personally aware of students using ChatGPT or similar services in ways that educators or schools may find inappropriate, or in ways that may violate academic rules or expectations.”

Finally, we asked whether guardians or parents thought educators, in order to cut down on cheating, should use technology tools to detect material that may have been generated by AI.

81 percent of parents and guardians said educators “should use technology tools that can spot or detect when something has been written by AI and not humans to check homework or test answers in order to cut down on cheating.”

How does AI writing detection work?

Turnitin’s AI writing detection identifies text in students’ work that could have been generated by ChatGPT, Google Bard, or another text generator.

The software makes no negative or positive judgment about the inclusion of AI-generated text. Instead, it simply highlights the text for the educator. This can provide a launching point for a constructive conversation with a student or class to discuss and respond to appropriate and unacceptable uses of AI writing in an academic setting.

What we learned

Before surveying parents and guardians, we expected that many were generally aware of ChatGPT and other similar tools. We also expected they might draw a connection between using AI for schoolwork and cheating, and we thought at least some would report knowing about it personally.

After reviewing the data, we were surprised by how many parents were aware of AI writing tools, and pleased by the strong consensus that parents and guardians generally felt that they were prepared to discuss them with their students.

We were more surprised by how strongly parents felt that using AI to do schoolwork was cheating—78 percent certainly got our attention. In particular, what stood out to us was that almost half of parents and guardians “personally knew” of students using AI inappropriately or in ways that may violate academic integrity expectations.

We were also not entirely surprised to see such strong support for educators using AI writing detection tools to uphold academic integrity. Understanding how students are using the tools available to them, and holding them accountable for appropriate use, is part of our job as parents and educators.

Instructional practices have adapted to acknowledge the pervasiveness of graphing calculators, grammar checkers, and web searches. As the instructional standards, practices, and discourse related to AI writing continue to evolve, we look forward to working with educators, parents, and guardians to help build a shared understanding of how these tools are transforming education, and help students safely and appropriately navigate them.

For more information about Turnitin’s AI writing detection feature, and for resources for parents, students and educators to help manage the new technology, visit Turnitin’s AI writing resources page.

Follow Turnitin on Linkedin, Twitter Instagram and Facebook for insights on this rapidly changing technology. For media inquiries, email us at press@turnitin.com.

Note: The margin of error in the survey is +/- 3 percentage points with a confidence level of 95%. Atomik Research is an independent, creative market research agency.