Have you heard the buzz around ChatGPT? It’s an open access, or free for now, chatbot that learns by taking in information and responding in a conversational way. Some people have greeted the rise of this artificial intelligence with panic. As a professor, I’m in a number of online spaces with educators. Some reacted as if the sky was falling at the prospect that students could enter an essay prompt or even add their own sample of writing to teach the bot his or her writing style, and get an essay in full within seconds. Undoubtedly, artificial intelligence will present challenges and dilemmas. I choose, however, to think about its potential. As a disabled parent and researcher who studies families led by parents with disabilities, I wondered: How can ChatGPT help with parenting?
First, it’s important to know how ChatGPT differs from a traditional search engine, like Google. Let’s say you want help meal planning for your family. You might find recipes, shopping lists, and meal ideas through a traditional search. With ChatGPT, you could enter what food items you have on hand, dietary restrictions, how many meals you need planned, and how to format the information would be most helpful. It can take some practice to know how to ask ChatGPT for what you want, but in just a few seconds, it can produce a table of meals for the week and even an accompanying shopping list if you are open to adding ingredients.
Here’s what I asked: You will serve as a meal planner. We need a shopping list and meals planned for 5 days for a family of four. Meals should be healthy and nut-free. Please list in a table.
And here’s what the AI gave me:
“Sure, here’s a sample meal plan and shopping list for a family of four for five days, with healthy and nut-free meals:
|Oatmeal with berries and honey
|Turkey and cheese sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat bread, served with carrot sticks
|Baked salmon with lemon and herbs, served with brown rice and steamed broccoli
|Greek yogurt with granola and fruit
|Lentil soup with a green salad
|Chicken and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice
|Scrambled eggs with spinach and feta, served with whole wheat toast
|Tuna salad wrap with lettuce, tomato and cucumber, served with a side of fruit
|Grilled chicken with a side of quinoa and roasted vegetables
|Smoothie bowl (spinach, banana, berries, almond milk)
|Turkey and cheese roll-ups with a side of cherry tomatoes and cucumber
|Spaghetti with marinara sauce and a side of garlic bread
|French toast with strawberries and maple syrup
|Grilled cheese with a side of tomato soup
|Beef stew with carrots, potatoes, and green beans
- Berries (e.g., strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)
- Whole wheat bread
- Carrot sticks
- Fresh herbs (e.g., parsley, dill, thyme)
- Brown rice
- Greek yogurt
- Salad greens
- Chicken breast
- Vegetables (e.g., bell peppers, onions, zucchini)
- Whole wheat toast
- Marinara sauce
- Garlic bread
- Almond milk
- Green beans
- Maple syrup
Note: Please check this list with your dietary restrictions and personal preferences.”
My take: ChatGPT pulled together a reasonable meal plan along with a shopping list much quicker than I could have gathered the information on my own. It’s also much more practical than many meal planning websites I’ve visited, which often include complicated recipes or hard-to-find, expensive ingredients.
Finding Resources in Your Area
When I ask ChatGPT what resources are available to parents in my area, it gave me a list that was too broad to be helpful. The list included our local children’s hospital and the United Way. The more specifc you are about what you want, the better. To improve my results, I asked, “What resources are available for afterschool care in <my area>. Create a table with the phone numbers for these places.” This resulted in a list of 10 specific organizations along with their phone numbers. There was also a reminder that this information changes over time and a recommendation to visit the afterschool care setting before making a decision.
My take: Again, ChatGPT is most helpful when you tell it exactly what you need. In this case, I wanted a list of daycares narrowed to afterschool care and I only wanted the phone numbers so I could take the list from there.
Summarizing information or making it plain language
Translating websites and resources into plain language that is easier to understand is one of the ways I’m most excited to see ChatGPT in use. You can ask the AI to translate information in the way that helps you learn best. I asked ChatGPT to summarize this website about talking to teens about puberty. The AI summarized the webpage into a paragraph but the reading level was too difficult (grade level 16). I asked ChatGPT to simplify the information further. Here’s the final summary: This website, “Talk about Puberty” is a resource for parents to help them understand and talk to their children about the changes that happen during puberty. It provides information and tips on how to talk to children about the changes in their bodies and emotions that happen during puberty. It also provides links to other reliable sources of information. The goal is to help parents have healthy and open conversations with their children about puberty.” This summary is shorter and about a 9th grade reading level.
My take: I am really excited about this potential use. While I wish all the resources we need as parents were more accessible, they aren’t. If supported to learn how to enter helpful prompts, ChatGPT could help translate materials about health, developmental milestones, and even academic topics that come up during helping with homework. It’s far from perfect but this holds potential to help people understand things that are worded in complicated ways.
I’m still experimenting with ways that ChatGPT could be helpful to parents with disabilities. It’s apparent many people are experimenting because I’ve been shut out of the site several times due to heavy traffic. If you receive an error, keep trying or try at a different time. I’d love to hear your ideas about how our community might use this new, free resource.