The Development and Pilot Evaluation of a ‘Serious Game’ to Promote Positive Child-Animal Interactions

Roxanne D. Hawkins1, Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals2, and Joanne M. Williams3 

1Division of Psychology, School of Media, Culture and Society, the University of West Scotland

2Scottish SPCA, Kingseat Road, Halbeath, Dunfermline, Fife KY11 8RY

3Clinical and Health Psychology, School of Health in Social Science, the University of Edinburgh

Animal welfare education aims to nurture compassion, respect and kindness to animals but there remains a need for more rigorous evaluations of such programmes to assess the most effective approaches. Incorporating technology into animal welfare education is a relatively novel field. This study examines the process of designing, developing, and evaluating the effectiveness of a new theoretically-driven educational computer game intervention. Pet Welfare was designed for children aged 7-12 years, to promote positive child-animal interactions. A pre-test, post-test, test-control, quasi-experimental design was used using a self-report questionnaire that children completed within class. Participants included 184 primary-school children from schools in Scotland, UK. The results indicated a positive impact on knowledge about animal welfare needs, knowledge about appropriate and safe behaviour towards pets and beliefs about pet minds. Children were also less accepting of cruelty to pets. There was no impact on self-reported compassion. This study presents the first evaluation of a digital animal welfare ‘serious game’ for children, demonstrating the benefits of incorporating technology and game-based learning into animal cruelty prevention. The results of this study will inform future education directions for those wishing to promote positive and safe relationships between children and animals.

Keywords: Animal Cruelty; Animal Welfare; Children; Education; Technology; Serious games

Corresponding Author: Dr Roxanne Hawkins, Division of Psychology, School of Media, Culture and Society, Room L248, Elles Building East, Paisley Campus, University of West of Scotland, PA1 2BE, Scotland. Contact: Roxanne.hawkins@uws.ac.uk

 Acknowledgement: We thank the schools, teachers and children who were involved for their invaluable time and collaboration.