A new survey explores the awareness, usage, and societal implications of generative AI among Gen Z students.

How is Gen Z using generative AI?


A new survey explores the awareness, usage, and societal implications of generative AI among Gen Z students

Key points:

AI is all the rage right now, and among Gen Z students, 59 percent are aware of generative AI tools and 18 percent are actively using these tools, according to a study from market research and consumer insights firm Touchstone Research.

The study focuses on how Gen Z students perceive the emergent and divisive field of generative AI and surveyed 931 students, spanning from middle school to college, to capture a nuanced view of the technology that is dramatically reshaping the world.

When it comes to just how Gen Z is using generative AI, 76 percent of college students said they are using these tools to create, including creating art, images, music, and videos. Sixty-two percent of college students are using generative AI to entertain themselves, and 51 percent of college students say they use generative AI to help with homework. Thirty-one percent of college students say they use generative AI to learn something new outside of school.

Generative AI’s potential as a personal assistant doesn’t go ignored among Gen Z, either, with 40 percent of college students using generative AI to make a task easier.

Among all Gen Z students, however, college students are the only ones surveyed expressing some doubts about generative AI. When asked to use 5 words describing their feelings about AI, college students said: Interested, unbelievable (in a good way), amazed, concerned, and excited.

What’s more, when asked if generative AI will have a positive impact or a negative impact, Gen Z shows some clear differences. Seventy-two percent of middle school students feel generative AI will have a positive impact on humanity and 28 percent feel it will have a negative impact, while 66 percent of high schoolers predict a positive impact and 34 percent predict a negative impact. More college students worry about a negative impact, with 55 percent percent predicting a positive impact on humanity and 45 percent predicting a negative impact.

Eighty-five percent of college students believe generative AI is a big deal, 74 percent believe it will have a big impact on their lives, and 51 percent believe the government should regulate or limit generative AI.

“There is no doubt that Generative AI has taken the world by storm over the past year,” said Touchstone Research’s Chief Executive Officer Aaron Burch. “Understanding the viewpoints of Gen Z is not just a research goal; it’s a societal imperative. As the first generation to grow up with these rapidly evolving technologies at their fingertips, their insights are an invaluable guide to our collective digital future.”

Broken into three groups, the study included middle schoolers (grades 6-8), high schoolers (grades 9-12), and full- and part-time college students (between the ages of 18 and 24). Sampling an equal number of males and females and representative proportions of various ethnic groups, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The study considered multiple factors, including students’ awareness and usage of generative AI tools, what precisely they were using the technology for (creativity, entertainment, help with school work, etc.), how they felt about Generative AI, whether they thought it would have a positive or negative impact on humanity, and how it could benefit and harm society.

Related: 5 key strategies for teaching in the era of ChatGPT

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Laura Ascione

IT Campus Leadership

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