Information for parents/carers

What is the study about and who is leading it?

The SPARKLE (Supporting Parents and Kids through Lockdown Experiences) study team, based at King’s College London and Oxford University, are looking for UK parent/carer participants to test their new specially-designed science-based ‘parent positive’ app which aims to provide parenting advice and multimedia resources developed with experts and celebrity parents to support UK parents and children during the transition out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Parent positive app aims to improve children’s behaviour and confidence and have a positive effect on parents’ wellbeing. The app will also provide access to regular online sessions with parenting experts and the chance to join an online forum to meet parents/carers across the UK and share parenting advice and tips.

What will I need to do?

First, complete the Oxford University survey. Half of parents/carers will be given access to the parent positive app immediately, and half after about two months. All parents/carers will complete online questionnaires about themselves and their child once per month. All participants will receive access to the free app & 2 £5 e-shopping vouchers as a thank you for taking part.

Who’s eligible to take part?

UK parents/carers of children aged 4-10, and UK parents/carers who have access to a smartphone with operating system OS 8-9 or higher for android, or IOS 12-13 or higher for Apple.

More information on the study

What are we focusing on?

The SPARKLE study trial was launched in December 2020 at King’s College London. The trial is led by Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke and Dr Kasia Kostyrka-Allchorne of the Experimental Psychopathology and Neurodevelopment (ExPAND) Research Group within the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.

We were motivated to launch the study by findings from the Oxford University ‘Co-SPACE: Supporting Parents, Adolescents and Children During Epidemics’ study – a UKRI-funded cohort study tracking changes in families’ mental health 2020 onwards. The study found that up to 70% of parents reported wanting additional support to address behavioural problems in their children and an increase in family-related stress in response to various local and national lockdowns throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This was as a result of a combination of reduced access to childcare, money-and health-related worries and extended confinement and social isolation, all of which have placed great pressure on many families in the UK.

What are our aims and what methodology are we using?

SPARKLE is a rapid-deployment randomised control trial evaluating whether a digital public health parenting intervention can help parents to manage their children’s behaviour problems, as impacted by the COVID-19 UK pandemic and lockdown.

We aim to evaluate whether the negative effects of lockdown can by reversed by providing parenting advice digitally, using a specially-designed mobile phone app, Parent Positive. The Parent Positive app will provide advice to parents through animations, delivering messages carefully selected by parents and experts in the field. The messages will be supplemented with practical parenting resources and an opportunity to network with other parents for peer support. The animations, originally thought up by Professor Sonuga-Barke and the King’s College London Parenting Under Pressure (POP-UP) team, are light-hearted, humorous and non-judgmental and are delivered by eight high-profile celebrities who are also parents. The eight messages relate to:

  • staying positive and motivated (Olivia Colman)
  • making sure everyone knows what is expected of them (Sharon Horgan)
  • building your child’s self-confidence and trust (Danny Dyer)
  • getting your child to follow instructions (Rob Brydon)
  • promoting better behaviour (Jessica Ennis-Hill)
  • limiting conflict (Holly Willoughby)
  • keeping calm when your kids act up (Romesh Ranganathan), and
  • careful use of sanctions (Shappi Khorsandi).

The initial stage of the SPARKLE study will involve 616 Co-SPACE parents, half of whom will receive access to the Parent Positive app and half who won’t. If results from the trial are positive, the app will be nationally disseminated through our collaboration with Public Health England, the UK Department for Education and multiple other commercial media partners.

Who are our key partners?

Our study is working in collaboration with the Oxford Psychological Interventions for Children and Adolescents (TOPIC) Research Group, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford Medical Sciences Division as well as the Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Charitable Foundation-funded Centre for Child & Parent Support Led by Dr Crispin Day, and is funded by UKRI-ESRC. The study will be delivered alongside colleagues at Oxford University responsible for the ‘Co-SPACE: Supporting Parents, Adolescents and Children During Epidemics’ study – a UKRI-funded cohort study tracking changes in families’ mental health 2020 onwards.

Read the summary paper:

More information about the study can be found at

View the Parent Positive App animation.