Children in the UK are reportedly using artificial intelligence (AI) image generators to create indecent images of other children, according to the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC). The charity has received a small number of reports from schools and is urging immediate action to address the issue before it escalates. The UKSIC emphasises the importance of helping children understand that creating such material is considered child abuse, highlighting that it is illegal under UK law. The charity calls for collaboration between teachers and parents to address this emerging problem.

The UKSIC’s call for action is supported by new research from RM Technology, revealing that just under a third of 1,000 pupils surveyed use AI to explore inappropriate content online. The study also points out a knowledge gap, with students having a more advanced understanding of AI than most teachers. As AI becomes more prevalent, the UKSIC stresses the need to prioritize closing this knowledge gap to ensure the safety of students online.

The UKSIC Director, David Wright, highlights the urgency of taking steps now to prevent schools from being overwhelmed by the issue. While young people may be motivated by curiosity rather than harm, there are concerns that they might inadvertently circulate the generated material online, leading to potential legal consequences and risks of blackmail.

The charity advocates for a collaborative approach, where schools and parents work together to address the challenges posed by the use of AI image generators. The UKSIC warns of the potential lifelong damage caused by the circulation of such images and calls for interventions to prevent further spread.

In September, the misuse of AI in generating extreme content was demonstrated through an app capable of creating fake nude images by “declothing” individuals in photos. The incidents underscore the challenges posed by the misuse of AI tools and the importance of proactive measures to protect children from engaging in harmful behaviours online.