Reducing negative emotions in children using social robots: systematic review.

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For many children, visiting the hospital can lead to a state of increased anxiety. Social robots are being explored as a possible tool to reduce anxiety and distress in children attending a clinical or hospital environment. Social robots are designed to communicate and interact through movement, music and speech.This systematic review aims at assessing the current evidence on the types of social robots used and their impact on children’s anxiety or distress levels when visiting the hospital for outpatient appointments or planned admissions.Databases such as MEDLINE, PubMed, IEEE Xplore, Web of Science, PsychINFO and Google Scholar were queried for papers published between January 2009 and August 2020 reporting the use of social robots interacting with children in hospital or clinical environments.A total of 10 studies were located and included. Across these 10 studies, 7 different types of robots were used. Anxiety and distress were found to be reduced in the children who interacted with a social robot.Overall, the evidence suggests that social robots hold a promising role in reducing levels of anxiety or distress in children visiting the hospital. However, research on social robots is at an early stage and requires further studies to strengthen the evidence base.

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Authors: Brenda Kimbembi Maleco Littler, Tourkiah Alessa, Paul Dimitri, Christine Smith, Luc de Witte