Investigating the efficacy of Smart Toys in families (RCT)

Collaborators: Prof Pedja Klasnja (Michigan), Prof Ben Hankin (Illinois), Prof Brett Ford (Toronto), Prof James Gross (Stanford), Committee for Children (Seattle)

The Smart toys intervention has been so far piloted through two small scale qualitative deployment studies to investigate engagement and acceptability of the prototype in young children’s homes, as well as subjective indicators of effects on emotion regulatory practices (whether positive or negative), as reported by parents and children. We have also collected anecdotal data on pilot deployments across 3 schools. Findings from these studies have been highly positive (cf., CSCW2018; JMIR2019): all 25 children engaged with the prototype throughout the deployments, all wanted to keep it for longer, and described how they naturally incorporated it into their everyday routines and gravitated towards it when they needed to down-regulate their emotions, including anger, anxiety, or just needing to relax.

Although this early data is promising, we so far lack any quantitative evidence of the intervention impact on child outcomes. In particular, data is urgently needed to:

  • evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of the current prototype in delivering measurable change in emotion regulatory practices of children;
  • validate the hypothesised intervention logic model; and, if needed,
  • identify additional intervention components—such as support for parents or teachers—necessary to further amplify or support intervention effects.

In collaboration with Committee for Children, we have finished data collection and are finalising the analysis of an exploratory repeated measures RCT with an active control (N=134), recruiting an enriched sample of US families.This work builds on a feasibility trial (n=20), which was completed in August 2020.

See our JMIR Protocols paper for the detailed study design.

Petr Slovak
Petr Slovak
Senior 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).