Getting started

If you’re a researcher currently running online studies and interested in joining the new improved Children Helping Science platform, here’s how you get started!

Study types on the platform

You can post studies that run in any online format to Children Helping Science. To guide you through setup, we divide studies into three groups:

  • Bring-your-own Study Link: You provide a link to a survey or other unmoderated study that you create. Families take the study on their own time, without a researcher present.
  • Bring-your-own Meeting: You provide a link to a scheduling page for families (e.g. Calendly). A researcher meets the family on a video call to conduct the session.
  • Lookit Experiment: You build a study in the Lookit experiment builder, which is customized for developmental studies and has features including webcam recording. Families take the study on their own time, without a researcher present.

Join the Slack workspace

Please fill out this form for an invite.

Slack is our primary means of communication about new features, best practices, etc. It’s also where you should go with any questions or technical support requests, and for peer review from other researchers. There are a lot of participating researchers (over 800 at last count!) who may be able to help!

If you also want to receive updates via email, please join the lookit-research list as well.

Overview - 15 minute to your first study!

1. Check to see if we already have an agreement with your institution to use the online testing platform (~1 minute)

Approximately 100 institutions have already signed agreements.

  1. Check whether your institution is listed here.
  2. Send an email to the CHS team ( to be added to an existing agreement.

If your institution is not listed, the form you need is here, and feel free to email CHS staff ( for help.

2. Create a new researcher account (~1 minute)

Go here to make a new researcher account.

Please don’t use a single login for your whole lab - even if you use a single email for lab communications (like Sharing login information presents a security risk for participants’ data.

Each researcher using the platform should create their own account.

3. Create (~5 minutes) or join (~1 minute) your lab account

If you are the first user from your lab, go here to create your own “lab” on the platform.

Visit this link to review and take a short quiz on our terms of use. One person from your lab needs to complete this quiz before your lab is approved to submit studies.

You will use your lab to manage access to your group’s studies. Every lab has its own public page that shows the studies that are active right now. (Example:

If your lab already has an account, go to this page, find your lab and click “Request to join”.

4. Create a study (~10 minutes if you already have a study set up that you want to post)

To create a study, go here and check the “External” checkbox if you are posting a link to an existing study you have already set up (bring-your-own study link or bring-your-own meeting.)

Any studies you run will need to be approved by your institution’s IRB (just like studies you run in person). If you do not already have permission to conduct online testing, you will need to amend your IRB protocol to include online testing (or submit a new protocol for your proposed online study.)

If you are bringing study in progress to the platform, you can consider this an amendment to your recruiting method, comparable to a new social media ad. If you need approval to extend your recruiting methods, please notify your institution’s IRB of the amendment.

Human subjects approval on the platform

The Lookit platform is run through MIT, but MIT’s IRB is not involved in any studies from other institutions (unless an MIT researcher is your actual research collaborator on a study!)

If you do not yet have a study design and want to learn how to use the platform to create studies (including asynchronous studies with no experimenter present that will collect webcam data of your participants) visit the Lookit tutorial to learn how the platform works.

5. What happens next?

a) Go to your study page and choose Submit under the Study Status heading. Studies are reviewed to make sure they meet our terms of use and basic requirements for all links posted on the platform.

b) Within three business days, you will receive an email saying that your study is approved. (We will contact you if for some reason your study is not yet ready for posting - e.g., because you are posting to an individual webpage with no university affiliation or without listing your IRB approval.)

c) After you’ve received the email saying your study is approved, go to your study page and hit “Start” under the Study Status heading. Be sure you are ready to go, because your study will immediately appear on the studies page!

You can pause and re-start data collection whenever you need to.

6. Recruiting participants for your study

Does the platform help advertise the study?

Yes. As soon as you start data collection, emails advertising your study will start going out to a random subset of families eligible for your study in our >10,000+ family database. (Families decide if they want to be contacted at all, and we limit the number of emails families receive so that no one family is overwhelmed with messages.)

What are the rules about paying participants?

Studies on the platform may be either compensated or uncompensated; the most important thing is to be clear with potential participants about the rules you’ll apply and how compensation will work.

You may limit compensation for reasons of eligibility (e.g. will only pay if the child is in the specified age range, will only pay once per child) or to avoid paying people who do not participate in good faith (see below).

However, payment needs to be for participants’ time and effort - without prior approval by Lookit, payment may not depend on the child’s behavior or performance, even if that behavior renders data unusable (e.g., if an infant fusses and his parent ends the session early). Similarly, payment may not depend on the parent’s video privacy selections.

Beginning December 2023, new studies are required to confirm that study participants are acting in good faith (i.e. that a child of the correct age is present and the family is attempting to participate in the study as designed) prior to compensating them. This can be done by using our built-in video consent process to review participants for any red flags prior to paying them, or by checking eligibility information during live Zoom meetings with families. You can learn more about this process and about preventing spam participation on this page.

Can I recruit participants directly to my study rather than the platform as a whole?

Yes. You can ensure that any families you recruit go directly to your study page on the website by including a direct link to that study anywhere you advertise for participants. Here is an example of a direct link.

Do some studies have priority over others on the platform?

No. The order in which studies appear on the Children Helping Science main page is randomized. Each user - families and researchers - will see the same order every time they log on, making it easy for all of us to locate studies we have looked at before. However, every family and researcher will see their own randomly determined order.

How do I benefit from others’ recruitment efforts and how does recruiting for my study help others?

Every lab’s recruitment effort helps expand the participant pool for all of us. Families interested in participating in research are usually interested in many different studies. Thus, even if you are a first-time researcher setting up your first study and you haven’t yet advertised at all, you are reaching roughly 10,000 families already interested in developmental science because other researchers have contributed to this community. Please do your part!

Even if you aren’t currently recruiting for a study, you can help by promoting the platform broadly. Put a link to Children Helping Science on a family-facing part of your lab or personal researcher website. This might look like this:

“Did you know that you can participate in research from the comfort of your own home? Click here to check out Children Helping Science, an online platform for developmental research. Families can participate in our studies on their home computers, any time they want!”

Recommendations for your first online study

If you are in the process of planning your first online study, here is an ordering of steps we recommend that you take:

  1. For internal studies, complete the Lookit tutorial to get familiar with how the platform works and how to implement a study on it.
  2. Figure out the details of how your study will work - counterbalancing, practice trials, etc. Draft the parent-facing instructions, record any audio and video needed (e.g., verbal instructions, voiceover/questions, demos), and collect your stimuli. See advice here.
  3. Set up your study on Children Helping Science and get it working just how you want it to! You’ll need to set each of these fields and write and test your study protocol.
  4. Gather peer feedback on your study to improve it; edit and iterate.
  5. Submit your study for internal review. Researchers are strongly encouraged to spend time polishing their studies as much as possible before submitting, including asking others to go through the study and provide feedback.
  6. Once your study has successfully passed internal review, start data collection!