Situated, embedded, and scalable parenting interventions through emerging IoT technologies

Collaborators: Prof Max Van Kleek (Oxford), Prof Katie Davis (UW), Prof Edmund Sonuga-Barke (KCL), Prof Steven Scott (KLC), Prof Cathy Cresswell (Oxford)

It is known that preventative interventions in childhood can help strenghten protective factors (such as constructive stress coping skills) that substantially reduce likelihood of mental health disorders in later life. Most effective existing prevention programs rely on at-home parenting interventions, taking into account the crucial role of parents on majority of protective/risk factors for children. Although these are already cost efficient in principle – a with aggregated factor of 11, i.e., £1 in investment generates £11 return over the lifetime – they are still too expensive to be deployed widely due to upfront costs, and struggle with challenges of access, engagement, and training. Technology could address many of these issues, however, this remains under-researched.

In this project, we are interested to investigate how emerging IoT devices—such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home—could enable a new model for empowering parenting interventions. By being situated exactly where parenting happens, these devices could capture the core components of existing parenting interventions (who said what to whom and how). The key insight is the power of receiving feedback on specific instances of parenting behaviours in situ, as illustrated for example by the striking effects of home-visitation programs (e.g., FIND) and intensive parenting therapy, which are however too resource-intensive to scale. Specifically, we will examine novel design patterns and technological tools that can turn existing parenting programs (including psycho-education, reflection, and feedback) into a sequence of contextualised short interactions (e.g., 30–120s), allowing parents to utilise everyday situations as an opportunity to reflect and learn.

We will be asking fundamental questions such as: How can such IoT devices extend and re-imagine the intervention process, situating it more closely to the interactions parents and children have during the week? How can these be used to empower and scaffold self-driven interventions, that would not be reliant on weekly meetings with a human counsellor? How might the system draw on both user-instigated as well as automatic tracking: e.g., how would existing Affective Computing/SSP algorithms need to be changed to become useful in this space? What would algorithmic transparency/explanations mean in these contexts, and how can we bake privacy and user data-controldirectly into the system design?

Petr Slovak
Petr Slovak
Lecturer (Assistant Prof) in Human Computer Interaction

My research is focused on envisioning, designing, and evaluating new technology-enabled interventions for children and youth, targetting core protective factors underpinning personal wellbeing (such as emotion regulation, parenting).