Dual income or working parents may face some unique difficulties in childcare compared to a situation where at least one parent can attend to the child at all times. In such a situation, is there an advantage of robots in childcare at home?
Dual-income parents are likely to be the early adopters of bots in childcare. These robots thus act as a support to meet parental demands. Dual-income parents have concerns about a lack of time for their children, which can impair their child’s cognitive and emotional development. They are likely to look for alternative ways to supplement their parenting with social experiences for their children and increase the efficiency of parenting.
Automation has evolved to the extent that bots can provide people with psychological help by talking to them, entertaining them, and helping them vent their feelings. These social droids can perform repetitive tasks. They are programmed to perform socially appropriate behaviors and communicate with their human pals to improve their quality of life.
What Research Shows
Studies have shown that with the introduction of automation in childcare in home settings, there are specific advantages of robots. Machine-child interaction can pave the way for a kid’s practical learning and overall emotional well-being.
Similarly, research has pointed to distinct advantages of robots for improving parent-child communication. They can work continuously on specific tasks and are less time-consuming. Thus, the application of bots is not limited to educational purposes but goes beyond that by including functions such as socialization, entertainment and consultation.
So, how can machines help in parenting and childcare at home? The advantages of robots will depend on many factors. What are the specific parenting styles the parents follow? What are the particular needs of the child?
Different families have different parenting styles and children with other characteristics. It will impact which functions of the social robots are utilized more, and thus, will play a role in determining parents’ preferences in selecting a particular robot.
Roles of Robots
Due to the growing challenges of working parents for childcare and technological advancements, there is growing interest and attention to robots in childcare. These robots have several interactive features, such as facial recognition, touch interfaces, and conversational skills.
Robots can be playmates, educators and also good conversation partners. They can also help in exchanging messages between parents and children. Having an automated friend encourages and motivates the children to gain interest in learning.
As children interact with such robots, it also helps develop social skills. Kids form strong bonds with these bots. Some robots play with children, and parents can monitor the play activities through a head-mounted display on the robot.
Different Parental Needs
Parents may have different childcare needs, so their expectations from the robot will vary. Some are single-income families, while some are dual-income families. Similarly, parenting styles may also differ. It may range from family-oriented to work-oriented, from non-interventional to dominant.
Social interaction time with children, where both parties are actively involved, positively affects a child’s cognitive development. Similarly, several activities parents and children engage in will positively impact a kid’s cognitive development.
For instance, when parents read stories to their kids, it involves solid verbal communication and develops cognitive development and emotional intelligence in kids. Similarly, parents who help their kids with their homework and play with them again help them develop social skills, as these activities require active communication.
The overall time spent with the children may not be as crucial as the quality of the time that is spent together with children. What’s essential is that parents should be able to provide rich social and communication experiences. Parents who spend more time with children but do not engage in activities that are rich in cognitive and social experiences may not have any positive effect on children.
Working parents try to compensate for the lack of time spent with kids by improving the quality of time to provide social experiences to children.
Depending on the parental needs and parenting styles, different parents may exhibit other preferences for robots depending on the advantage of the robot. For instance, a parent who likes reading stories to children to bond with them will be wary of employing a robot for the same purpose, disconnecting the parent from the child.
In dual-income families with family-oriented and work-oriented parenting styles, the preference was for robots who can help develop children’s social and interpersonal skills.
Parents with a non-interfering parenting style prefer robots, which can offer consultation and advice to the child as they don’t involve much with the child.
On the other hand, Dominant parents may prefer robots that can provide entertainment to kids as they can have an enjoyable time while the parents engage themselves in different tasks.
Robot preferences were also influenced by the age and needs of the children. Parents of younger children show a greater appreciation for the entertainment and expert counseling function. However, parents are also aware of children being negatively affected by exposure to inappropriate entertainment content and the length of exposure. These things will impact what robots they prefer.
Parents show more significant preferences for socialization, entertainment, and consultation functions. However, robots were not seen as especially beneficial for children’s education at home owing to plenty of opportunities already available in settings such as the classroom. If robots can deliver an educational function that significantly differs from what children are taught in classrooms, parents will show a preference for the educational role.