Slide CO:RE Compass for Research Ethics Welcome to the

The CO:RE Compass for Research Ethics complements the CO:RE Conversation on Research Ethics, taking place via blog posts and exchanges in webinars and social media, and is a continuously growing resources base providing helpful materials and resources for researchers, students and members of the public. Here and in our CO:RE Conversation activities, we discuss the ethical issues that one encounters in practice, and build a resource base that investigates and evaluates potential solutions to these issues. 

We encourage you, as a user, to contribute your own reflections, expertise and questions to this conversation. You can do this by posting comments in response to our blogs (find the latest one here), by engaging in conversation with us during our webinars (watch the latest one here), or via social media such as ResearchGate, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. 

Please note that this resource base is under construction and is growing incrementally.

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What are research ethics?

Research ethics are guidelines about how research can and should be conducted. Researchers aim to develop new knowledge that is accurate and truthful. In particular, when investigating how children use the Internet, researchers are also required to consider and comply with research ethical norms and principles in order to ensure that their research is beneficial for the people and the societies for and about whom they are researching. Researchers should also ensure that the dignity, rights and autonomy of research participants are respected and upheld.

Under this theme we will present resources and frequently asked questions related to the overall theme of ‘research ethics’. Our focus will be on the ethical norms and principles that relate to conducting research with and about children online.

by Mary Pahlke on Pixabay
FAQs

How are research ethics different from legal requirements?

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Do research ethics apply to my research project?

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What kinds of ethical principles should I be aware of?

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Is there anything specific that I need to consider when researching with and about children in online contexts? If so, what might this be?

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Shamoo, A. E., & Resnik, D. B. (2009). Responsible Conduct of Research. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195368246.001.0001

What is ethical informed consent?

All research participants should provide informed consent before they participate, or before information and material that can be linked to them is included, in a research project. Consent should be informed, explicit, voluntary and documented. Consent should also be provided by people who are capable of doing so. This is a both a legal and an ethical requirement. But what is the difference between legal and ethical consent?

Under this theme heading we will discuss and provide resources about the differences between legal and ethical consent with a particular focus on the relevance of these differences when engaging in research with and about children online.

FAQs

What is the difference between legal and ethical consent?

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Is legal consent sufficient?

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Can children provide legal informed consent to participate in research?

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Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2011). Researching with Young Children: Seeking Assent. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 231–247. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-010-9084-0
Dorn, L. D., Susman, E. J., & Fletcher, J. C. (1995). Informed consent in children and adolescents: Age, maturation and psychological state. Journal of Adolescent Health, 16(3), 185–190. https://doi.org/10.1016/1054-139X(94)00063-K
Moilanen, K. L. (2016). Why Do Parents Grant or Deny Consent for Adolescent Participation in Sexuality Research? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(5), 1020–1036. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0445-y
Nutbrown, C. (2011). Naked by the Pool? Blurring the Image? Ethical Issues in the Portrayal of Young Children in Arts-Based Educational Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(1), 3–14. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800410389437
Parsons, S., Sherwood, G., & Abbott, C. (2016). Informed Consent with Children and Young People in Social Research: Is There Scope for Innovation? Children & Society, 30(2), 132–145. https://doi.org/10.1111/chso.12117

Protecting and promoting children’s rights and agency in research

Children and young people participate in research. As research participants children have particular rights to protection and participation that are easily overlooked. In particular, measures should be taken to ensure that children’s perspectives and voice are taken into account in the construction of knowledge.

by Gordon Johnson on Pixabay
FAQs

What rights do children have in research? How might these rights differ from those of adults?

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How might children’s participation in research be influenced by power relations?

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How can children’s perspectives and voice be respected and taken into account in research contexts?

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What aspects of the online environment complicate these issues?

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Barn, R., & Barn, B. S. (2019). Youth Justice in the Digital Age: A Case Study of Practitioners’ Perspectives on the Challenges and Opportunities of Social Technology in Their Techno-Habitat in the United Kingdom. Youth Justice, 19(3), 185–205. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473225419869568
Cowie, B., & Khoo, E. (2017). Accountability through access, authenticity and advocacy when researching with young children. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(3), 234–247. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2016.1260821
Holland, S., Renold, E., Ross, N. J., & Hillman, A. (2010). Power, agency and participatory agendas: A critical exploration of young people’s engagement in participative qualitative research. Childhood, 17(3), 360–375. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568210369310
Lomax, H. (2012). Contested voices? Methodological tensions in creative visual research with children. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 15(2), 105–117. https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2012.649408
Lundy, L. (2007). “Voice” is not enough: conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. British Educational Research Journal, 33(6), 927–942. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920701657033
Pinter, A., & Zandian, S. (2015). “I thought it would be tiny little one phrase that we said, in a huge big pile of papers”: children’s reflections on their involvement in participatory research. Qualitative Research, 15(2), 235–250. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794112465637

How, when and where to report when something goes wrong?

In spite of the fact that scientists usually take significant measures to ensure that the research they conduct complies with ethical standards, in particular with regard to truth, accuracy and beneficence for research participants, things can and do, go wrong. But how can and should these situations be dealt with? What opportunities are available to address and report about issues or concerns that arise?

by Mohammad Hassan on Pixabay
FAQs

How can I report a concern about a research project?

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What steps should I take?

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What agencies will be able to assist in addressing this situation?

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Gierth, L., & Bromme, R. (2020). Attacking science on social media: How user comments affect perceived trustworthiness and credibility. Public Understanding of Science, 29(2), 230–247. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662519889275
Kalichman, S. C. (1993). Mandated reporting of suspected child abuse: Ethics, law, & policy. American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10128-000
Kotch, J. B. (2000). Ethical Issues in Longitudinal Child Maltreatment Research. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15(7), 696–709. https://doi.org/10.1177/088626000015007003

What are ethical incentives and beneficence?

Research should be conducted according to the principle of beneficence, including that those involved in the research should benefit from the knowledge that is constructed.

Working according to the principle of beneficence is particularly problematic when working with children and young people. If the knowledge that they are involved in constructing is not directly accessible to them or relevant for their lives, how can this principle be understood? Furthermore, if children and young people are provided with incentives to participate in research, how might this influence their participation?

FAQs

What is beneficence and how is this considered and understood in the context of different research projects?

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How can I ensure that my research is conducted in accordance with this principle?

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What aspects might introduce conflict with the concept of beneficence?

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Binik, Y. M., Mah, K., & Kiesler, S. (1999). Ethical issues in conducting sex research on the Internet. Journal of Sex Research, 36(1), 82–90. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499909551971
Kerawalla, L. (2014). Empowered Participation through Inclusive Inquiry. In J. Westwood, C. Larkins, D. Moxon, Y. Perry, & N. Thomas (Eds.), Participation, Citizenship and Intergenerational Relations in Children and Young People’s Lives (pp. 117–127). Palgrave Macmillan UK. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137379702_12
King, N. M. P., & Churchill, L. R. (2000). Ethical Principles Guiding Research on Child and Adolescent Subjects. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 15(7), 710–724. https://doi.org/10.1177/088626000015007004
Morrow, V. (2008). Ethical dilemmas in research with children and young people about their social environments. Childrens Geographies, 6(1), 49–61. https://doi.org/10.1080/14733280701791918
Munir, K., & Earls, F. (1992). Ethical Principles Governing Research in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 31(3), 408–414. https://doi.org/10.1097/00004583-199205000-00005
Norton, I. M., & Manson, S. M. (1996). Research in American Indian and Alaska Native communities: Navigating the cultural universe of values and process. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64(5), 856–860. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.64.5.856
Pinter, A., & Zandian, S. (2015). “I thought it would be tiny little one phrase that we said, in a huge big pile of papers”: children’s reflections on their involvement in participatory research. Qualitative Research, 15(2), 235–250. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794112465637
Rubin Stiffman, A., Brown, E., Woodstock Striley, C., Ostmann, E., & Chowa, G. (2005). Cultural and Ethical Issues Concerning Research on American Indian Youth. Ethics & Behavior, 15(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327019eb1501_1
Weaver, H. N. (1997). The Challenges of Research in Native American Communities: Incorporating Principles of Cultural Competence. Journal of Social Service Research, 23(2), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1300/J079v23n02_01

What to consider when doing online research with children?

The majority of European children (aged 9-17) report using their smartphones ‘daily’ or ‘almost all the time’ (Smahel et al., 2020). As such, they encounter a range of risks and opportunities for example when engaging with media content, when socializing, playing games and being creative. At the same time, children’s online experiences are both highly personalized and create digital traces that are recorded and used for commercial purposes. It is therefore important to consider this range of experiences, activities and opportunities when engaging in research with and about children online.

It is also important to consider that children have a range of competences and abilities when using the Internet and that these in turn are mediated by other factors, including individual, relational and social, cultural and economic factors.

FAQs

How can we understand children’s online experiences?

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What additional factors, at the individual, relational and social levels might influence these experiences?

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How do children’s online experiences relate their own digital skills, or the skills and competences of their peers, parents and teachers?

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Aldridge, J. (2012). The participation of vulnerable children in photographic research. Visual Studies, 27(1), 48–58. https://doi.org/10.1080/1472586X.2012.642957
Christensen, P., & Prout, A. (2002). Working with ethical symmetry in social research with children. Childhood-a Global Journal of Child Research, 9(4), 477–497. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568202009004007
Kerawalla, L. (2014). Empowered Participation through Inclusive Inquiry. In J. Westwood, C. Larkins, D. Moxon, Y. Perry, & N. Thomas (Eds.), Participation, Citizenship and Intergenerational Relations in Children and Young People’s Lives (pp. 117–127). Palgrave Macmillan UK. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137379702_12
Lomax, H., Fink, J., Singh, N., & High, C. (2011). The politics of performance: methodological challenges of researching children’s experiences of childhood through the lens of participatory video. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 14(3), 231–243. https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2011.563622
Smahel, D., MacHackova, H., Mascheroni, G., Dedkova, L., Staksrud, E., Olafsson, K., Livingstone, S., & Hasebrink, U. (2020). EU Kids Online 2020: survey results from 19 countries [Monograph]. http://www.lse.ac.uk/media-and-communications/research/research-projects/eu-kids-online

Processing Sensitive Data

The legal definition of sensitive data includes:

  • Personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs;
  • Trade-union membership;
  • Genetic data, biometric data processes solely to identify a human being;
  • Health-related data; and
  • Data concerning a person’s sex life or sexual orientation.

Because communication on the internet in general, and among children and young people, can be of an intimate and private nature, it can include sensitive data. As such researchers need to take particular care of this kind of data.

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FAQs

What is sensitive data? Is the data that I am accessing sensitive? How will I know in advance whether the data I engage with is sensitive or not?

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How can I access sensitive data?

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How can I store sensitive data in a way that is secure?

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Should I anonymise sensitive data?

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Can I publish research that is based on sensitive data?

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Ray, D. C., Purswell, K., Haas, S., & Aldrete, C. (2017). Child-Centered Play Therapy-Research Integrity Checklist: Development, reliability, and use. International Journal of Play Therapy, 26(4), 207–217. https://doi.org/10.1037/pla0000046
Romer, D., Hornik, R., Stanton, B., Black, M., Li, X. M., Ricardo, I., & Feigelman, S. (1997). “‘Talking’” computers: A reliable and private method to conduct interviews on sensitive topics with children. Journal of Sex Research, 34(1), 3–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499709551859
Stubben, J. D. (2001). Working With and Conducting Research Among American Indian Families. American Behavioral Scientist, 44(9), 1466–1481. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764201044009004

What to consider when engaging children as co-researchers?

One approach to facilitating children’s participation in research and to ensuring that children’s perspectives and voices are included in the construction of knowledge, is to engage children as co-researchers. This in turn raises a number of questions with regard to research ethics, including questions of competence, decision-making and beneficence.

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FAQs

What do I need to think about when engaging children as co-researchers?

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What kind of knowledge might I access in this way?

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What skills and competences might children need in order to act as co-researchers and how will they gain these skills?

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How can children become involved in data analysis?

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Archer, L., Dewitt, J., Osborne, J., Dillon, J., Willis, B., & Wong, B. (2010). “Doing” Science Versus “Being” a Scientist: Examining 10/11-Year-Old Schoolchildren’s Constructions of Science Through the Lens of Identity. Science Education, 94(4), 617–639. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20399
Coad, J., & Evans, R. (2008). Reflections on practical approaches to involving children and young people in the data analysis process. Children & Society, 22(1), 41–52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1099-0860.2006.00062.x
Cowie, B., & Khoo, E. (2017). Accountability through access, authenticity and advocacy when researching with young children. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 21(3), 234–247. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2016.1260821
Hunleth, J. (2011). Beyond on or with: Questioning power dynamics and knowledge production in “child-oriented” research methodology. Childhood-a Global Journal of Child Research, 18(1), 81–93. https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568210371234
Kellett, M. (2011). Empowering Children and Young People as Researchers: Overcoming Barriers and Building Capacity. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 205–219. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-010-9103-1
Kellett, M., Forrest (aged ten), R., Dent (aged ten), N., & Ward (aged ten), S. (2004). ?Just teach us the skills please, we’ll do the rest?: empowering ten-year-olds as active researchers. Children & Society, 18(5), 329–343. https://doi.org/10.1002/chi.807
Lomax, H., Fink, J., Singh, N., & High, C. (2011). The politics of performance: methodological challenges of researching children’s experiences of childhood through the lens of participatory video. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 14(3), 231–243. https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2011.563622
Lundy, L., McEvoy, L., & Byrne, B. (2011). Working With Young Children as Co-Researchers: An Approach Informed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Early Education and Development, 22(5), 714–736. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2011.596463
Robards, B., & Lincoln, S. (2020). Growing up on facebook. Peter Lang.

Further resources, regulations & rules

In this section we provide a list of additional resources, regulations and rules to consider when engaging in research with and about children and young people online. Please feel free to suggest additions or amendments to this list.

by Manfred Steger on Pixabay