LENA Device

LENA Device LENA is a digital recording device specially designed for babies to wear in a vest. It can record up to 16 hours of data at a time. In our ‘Effects of Input’ study, some families are asked to borrow LENA from us over a weekend. The baby wears the vest and device all day whenever the family are at home and going about their normal routine. Parents can, of course, switch the device on and off as they please so that they can have a private conversation whenever they want.

I don’t think my baby was aware of the device. I think that if someone came with a camera then she would have been totally different, as she seems to be aware of when we take a photo or video her. She always stops and smiles!

As babies are unaware that they are being recorded, LENA enables us to obtain much more natural data than if a researcher went into people’s homes with a camera. Additionally, although parents are aware that they are being recorded, it seems that many feel less inhibited than they would be with an outside observer present. We loan families a plastic bib to wear over the LENA vest during mealtimes to give the microphone maximum protection. We also pay families £30 to thank them for their time.

Most of the recording is processed automatically by LENA’s software on our lab computer. However, we do listen to and transcribe what happens during an hour after the baby has woken from a nap. For this reason, parents keep a diary of their weekend’s activities. For more information about how LENA works and is used in America, please go to the manufacturer’s website.

As we are the first university in the UK to use LENA, we keep developing our research, and feedback from families participating in the study is really helpful to us. This is what parents who have taken part in our British and American Cultural Impact study said about their experience.

I would recommend to other parents to take part, it’s something fun to do with your child, and it’s interesting to get the study updates. My baby loves the books and often carries around the duck flashcard saying “baaack” – close enough to quack for me!

We really enjoyed taking part in the study and it has made us much more aware of the language that my baby is exposed to. I think it will influence some of the vocabulary we use and hopefully help her to have a better understanding of language from an earlier age.

If you are interested in taking part in our next study, please visit our ‘Sign up for a study’ page.