Dream or Nightmare? New Generative AI App Lets Kids Create Bedtime Stories

Artificial intelligence can stimulate creativity, experts say

  • A new app lets kids use AI to create stories.
  • Some experts say that the software could hurt children’s creativity.
  • But the app’s makers argue that AI can be helpful and entertaining.
A parent and child creating a story on a tablet in a darkened room.

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Kids won't be left out of the generative artificial intelligence (AI) revolution, although whether that's good or bad depends on who you ask. 

SmartDreams is a new app with an AI engine to let children and their families create illustrated bedtime stories. But some experts say AI tales don't leave enough to the imagination. 

"The primary concern is the potential overreliance on AI assistants, which may hinder a child's ability to start a story independently," Aaron Rafferty, the CEO of StandardDAO, told Lifewire in an email interview. "This mirrors past concerns with the introduction of personal computers and typewriters, which were thought to threaten long-form handwriting and typewriting skills."

AI Storytelling for Kids

Through generative AI, the SmartDreams application puts children in the driver's seat. When the app launches, a set of magically created animals, heroes, sidekicks, locations, foods, and more are shown as options for kids to choose from. SmartDreams then generates stories. 

"With SmartDreams, children can experience the magic of storytelling without the difficulties of constructing a story from scratch, a task with which even adults struggle," Nick Desai, the CEO of SmartDreams, said in an email. "The application is a useful tool that guides children through the creative process, making story creation as easy as selecting a few key elements, such as an animal, a location, and a food item."

This process can boost children's confidence in their own creativity, validating their ideas and encouraging them to explore more creative endeavors.

Desai said using generative AI to create stories can help children develop essential skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Children learn about narrative structure and cause-and-effect relationships by choosing story elements and seeing how they fit together. 

"This process can boost children's confidence in their own creativity, validating their ideas and encouraging them to explore more creative endeavors," he added. 

Desai acknowledged that using generative AI in storytelling for children raises concerns. One issue involves AI's potential to produce inappropriate or harmful content. He said it has trained its AI model with "extreme caution," adding that "this ensures that the stories generated for children are both engaging and safe."

SmartDreams isn't the only generative AI software aimed at kids. There's also Pressto, a recently released app that uses AI to teach writing skills through customized writing prompts. The prompts are linked to structured writing experiences, supposedly helping teachers enhance their students' writing and critical thinking skills by empowering them with scaffolds, such as writing blocks, different writing styles, signal words, and important words and phrases. 

"Based on our years of research, we know that both the desire to find alternative tools to motivate writing, as well as the need to remain ahead of students when it comes to AI in the classroom is essential, so we are not surprised that teachers are quickly embracing Pressto and our user numbers are growing at such a rapid pace," Pressto Founder and CEO Daniel Stedman said in a news release.

Two kids using a tablet while laying on a bed.

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Generative AI for Creativity?

Despite its potential drawbacks, AI can enhance creativity in kids, Robin Hilmantel, the senior director of editorial strategy for What to Expect, said in an email. She said that children five years old and up are the most likely to benefit from generative AI tools to create their own stories, as they will have more familiarity with reading. 

"That said, parents should still plan on giving them plenty of help and supervision to ensure that they have the assistance they need and that they don't end up stumbling upon anything inappropriate," Hilmantel said. 

Suppose you're looking to do story-related activities with your children. In that case, you can always ask Dall-E, Stable Diffusion, or Midjourney to generate coloring book pages of your child's favorite animal or character, then print them out, Hilmantel suggested. You could also use generative AI to create stories in a Mad Libs-like fashion, asking your child to help you "fill in the blanks" before you submit your query.

"Even if you use generative AI in some of these ways, we still recommend parents read to their children regularly," she said. "There are benefits at every age, including when your baby is a newborn."

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