Child-Robot Interaction: Social
Bonding, Learning and Ethics
This workshop aims to exchange experiences with
issues surrounding Child-Robot Interaction. More
specifically, the main aims are to discuss how social
bonding between children and robots can be evaluated,
how robots can be used to aid children in their learning
process, but also what ethical issues arise when
children learn from and bond with a robot. Another aim
is to discuss how teachers’ and caretakers’ perspectives
on children’s use of robots should be taken into account
when designing and evaluating robots for children.
Children, Robots, Social Bonding, Learning, Ethics
ACM Classification Keywords
I.2.11 Intelligent agents, K.3.1 Computer-assisted
instruction, K.4.1 Ethics
Scientific research investigating the use of (social)
robots with children has steadily increased in recent
years. The robots used in this research range from
robotic pets and educational aids [1-3] to therapeutic
and assistive tools for children.
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Wolmet Barendregt, Sofia
University of Gothenburg
Ana Paiva, Patrícia Alves
-ID, Instituto Superior
Arvid Kappas, Christina
Jacobs University Bremen
University of London
Interactive Institute Swedish ICT
Children are an especially interesting target group for
Human-Robot Interaction since they are often more
willing than adults to interact and engage with robots
, although factors such as gender and age of the
children influence the interaction. In this workshop we
would like to focus on three main topics: Bonding,
Learning, and Parents’ and Teachers’ perspectives on
children’s interactions with robots.
Children are more likely to easily form a bond with a
robot. Fior et al.  investigated for example if children
could form relationships with robots and view them as
friends. Their results showed that most children
thought the robot could be their friend, more than half
of the children would talk to the robot, and almost half
of the children would even share a secret with the
Similarly, Bethel et al.  investigated if preschool
children were as likely to share a secret with a robot as
with an adult. In this study the children played the
game “follow-the-leader” with an adult and a humanoid
robot. The lead investigator shared a unique secret with
each child. During a break in the game with both the
adult and the robot, the children were prompted with
five questions to determine if they would share this
secret. The results indicated that the children were as
likely to share the secret with the robot as the adult
with a similar amount of prompting effort and that the
children interacted with the robot in a similar way as
with the adult.
Shahid et al.  investigated if children compared
playing with a robot with playing alone or with a friend.
The results suggested that children enjoyed playing
with the robot more than playing alone, but not as
much as when playing with a friend.
Since research has suggested that when empathy or
support is provided (from a human or artificial source)
learning is improved, it is a logical step to use robots as
teaching aids or companions. Kanda et al.  for
example conducted an 18-day field trial at a Japanese
elementary school using two “Robovie” robots with
first-grade and sixth-grade children to investigate the
possibility of using robots as social partners to teach
the children English. Although the majority of the
children did not improve their English skills, the
children were very interested in the robot.
In an experiment with an expressive robot used with
10-11 year-old children Saerbeck and Bartneck 
found that a robot engaging in social interaction
seemed to be more effective than one focusing on a
mere knowledge transfer. They therefore argued that
robotic user interfaces could be meaningfully integrated
in the educational process.
However, as Pearson and Borenstein  point out,
robots that children bond with and/or learn from are
intended to affect individual well-being, and several
ethical issues should thus be considered, such as
whether robots ought to be made to appear or act
humanlike, and whether they should be gendered.
Furthermore, parents and teachers are also important
stakeholders when it comes to children’s use of robots,
either as social or learning companions. Other
important topics for the workshop are thus how we can
make sure that these robots really increase children’s
well-being and how we can take parents’ and teachers’
opinions and attitudes into account when designing and
evaluating robots for children.
This workshop aims to 1) bring together people who are
interested in children’s social bonding and/or learning
with robots; and 2) identify how robots interacting with
children in a social or educational manner should be
evaluated, taking into account ethical considerations
and the role of the context, such as caretakers’ and
Issues to be addressed
The focus of the workshop is on the design and
evaluation of robots for children. The main issues are
how and when children bond to a robot, whether
children can learn from or with a robot, and any ethical
issues related to the design of the robots or the context
in which they are used. More specifically, the workshop
participants’ experiences with designing and evaluating
robots for such purposes are discussed.
Researchers and designers working on robots to be
used by children, such as assistants, toys, and tutors
are invited to participate. Especially designers that are
interested in the effects of such robots on children and
any ethical issues and not so much the technical
implementation of these robots are encouraged to
apply. A maximum of 20 people can participate.
Applicants are required to write a paper (maximum 3
pages) about their expectations of the workshop and
the specific topics they would like to discuss. The paper
should also include the following information:
1. The type of robot they are working with (off-
the-shelf, custom-made etc.)
2. The target group they are working with
3. The aim of the robot
4. Any evaluation methods they have used or are
planning to use to assess the robot’s effect on
children and their context
SETUP OF THE WORKSHOP
This half-day workshop has a creative character. It
refrains from using a standard workshop setup of
presentations and discussions. Instead, the participants
share best practices and methods, discuss common
concerns and have brainstorms. The workshop consists
of four parts:
Introduction – 60 minutes
Participants introduce themselves by presenting the
four points mentioned above. The goal of this part is
mainly to get to know each other and to create an
informal atmosphere to share best practices and
Discussion in groups – 90 minutes
In small groups, participants discuss three main
themes: Role of the robot, Evaluation of the robot’s
effects on children and their context, Ethical issues.
Each group extracts three conclusions from their
discussion which are placed on a poster for each theme.
Presenting conclusions – 30 minutes
The participants present the conclusions from their
discussions to each other.
Creating poster – 60 minutes
In a final session, the participants work on the creation
of a poster to be presented in the poster session of the
During the workshop a poster for presentation at the
main conference poster session is created. We will also
aim for publishing a workshop report in the SIGCHI
Bulletin or a similar publication. Both the report and the
poster will be published on the workshop website as
well. Depending on the interest from the participants,
we will try to arrange a special issue in a journal
suitable for the workshop topic, such as for instance the
International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction or a
joint article based on the discussions during the
workshop and on the different position papers. It is our
intention to use the workshop website for continued
work and events.
 Kanda, T., Hirano, T., Eaton, D., and Ishiguro, H.
Interactive robots as social partners and peer tutors for
children: A field trial. Human-Computer Interaction. 19:
 Kerepesi, A., Kubinyi, E., Jonsson, G.K.,
Magnusson, M.S., and Miklosi, A. Behavioral
comparison of human-animal (dog) and human-robot
(AIBO) interactions. Behavioural Processes. 73: (2006).
 Tanaka, F. and Ghosh, M. The implementation of
care-receiving robot at an English learning school for
children, in HRI2011: Lausanne, Switzerland.
 Scheeff, M., Pinto, J., Rahardja, K., Snibbe, S., and
Tow, R. Experiences with Sparky, a social robot.
Socially Intelligent Agents, Multiagent Systems,
Artificial Societies, And Simulated Organizations. 3:
 Fior, M., Nugent, S., Beran, T., Ramirez-Serrano,
A., and Kuzyk, R. Children’s Relationships with Robots:
Robot is Child’s New Friend. Journal of physical agents.
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 Bethel, C.L., Stevenson, M.R., and Scassellati, B.
Secret-sharing: Interactions between a child, robot,
and adult. In Proc. IEEE International Conference on
Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC), (2011), 2489-
 Shahid, S., Krahmer, E., and Swerts, M. Child-robot
Interaction: Playing Alone or Together. In Proc. CHI
2011, (2011), 1399-1404.
 Saerbeck, M., Schut, T., Bartneck, C., and Janse, M.
Expressive robots in education - Varying the degree of
social supportive behavior of a robotic tutor. In Proc.
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Systems (CHI2010), ACM (2010), 1613-1622.
 Pearson, Y. and Borenstein, J. Creating
“companions” for children: the ethics of designing
esthetic features for robots. AI & Society: (2012).