Generation Z drives early adoption of Gen AI, says Ofcom 

79% of online teens aged 13-17 in the UK now use generative AI, with 40% of those aged 7-12 adopting the new tech. 

‘Generative AI’ broadly refers to algorithms that, when prompted, can generate ‘new’ content such as text, images, video and code, based on previously input data. Well-known Gen AI services include Bing chat, ChatGPT, DALL-E, Midjourney and Snapchat My AI. 

woman in pink long sleeve shirt sitting in front of macbook pro

Photo by Giovanni Gagliardi

According to communications regulator Ofcom’s latest annual Online Nation report, internet users in the UK aged 16 or over are, on average, comparatively to use such systems – at just 31%. Indeed, of the 69% of this age group who have never used such technology, nearly a quarter (24%) have no idea what it is. 

The research published in shows that Snapchat My AI, which became freely available to all Snap users only in April, is the most popular such tool among children and teens, used by 51% of those online aged 7–17. A massive 75% of online teen girls use it. 

Online boys aged 7-17 are more likely to use ChatGPT than girls of the same age (34% versus 14% respectively). ChatGPT is also the most widely used generative AI service among internet users aged 16 and above, at 23%. Among this age group, 58% use generative AI for fun, 33% for work and 25% for help with their studies. Some 48% use it for chatting and to explore its capabilities, while just 36% use it to find information or content, and 22% to seek advice. The suggestion is that most people are so far just finding their way with this nascent tech. 

That’s evident in the relatively low figures for ways generative AI has been used: 20% used it to devise poetry or lyrics, another 20% to create images. Just 11% used it for coding, 9% to make videos and 4% to make audio.  

What’s more, 58% of respondents were concerned by the impact generative AI will have on society. Online 16-24 year-olds, who are the most prolific users of such tech, are also the most worried by such implications – at 67%. 

As regulator, Ofcom will assess the safety risks of new products and monitor broader market developments, not least with the online safety laws in mind. 

Yih-Choung Teh, Group Director for Strategy and Research at Ofcom, says: ‘Getting rapidly up to speed with new technology comes as second nature to Gen Z, and generative AI is no exception. While children and teens are driving its early adoption, we’re also seeing older internet users exploring its capabilities, both for work and for leisure. 

‘We also recognise that some people are concerned about what AI means for the future. As online safety regulator, we’re already working to build an in-depth understanding of the opportunities and risks of new and emerging technologies, so that innovation can thrive, while the safety of users is protected.’ 

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