Children as agents of change
Young people, but not only, can be considered as agents of change in societies. Research in general should inform policy and more broadly society. And when it is conducted in a sustainable manner, it should enhance the usefulness of research in planning for the future. The CO:RE Methods Toolkit promotes sustainable research on children’s digital cultures.
How do we understand sustainability in this case? The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide 17 goals as UN SDGs, considering for example human rights, inclusion, cohesion, participation and equality as the forms of social sustainability. By making the connection with the UN SDGs, the robustness and soundness of research methods in terms of truthful research can be representative of sustainable research if it ensures cohesion and human rights. Thus, research that focuses on children and youth as vulnerable parties in societies combines the social sustainability dimension with youth participation in research.
As the CO:RE Method Toolkit explains, the youth participatory approach includes multiple ways of involving children and youth in research as experts on their lives. These ways can include, for example, peer interviews among young people or co-production and testing, design partners, co-organizers’ of events or publications and advisors on their own life spheres (Eckhoff, 2019; Kotilainen, 2022).
Challenges are mostly related to the ethical aspects in research when children as researchers can be overcome by inter-generational barriers. Moreover, children and young people need to be protected from harm when they become peer researchers, as well as when they are participants or subjects in research (see also: CO:RE Compass of Research Ethics). To address these challenges, research ethic guidelines need to be followed and, previous studies on the participation of young people provide knowledge on best practices on this specific approach.
The value of participatory research
A participatory approach gives voice to young people and, as a child rights-based approach creates social value. It can inform professional research, especially in studying this age group and their use of digital cultures. This approach has an impact on educational equity, and youth validated concepts that can be applied in practice serve organisations and policies. The expertise of young people should be valued in making the internet safer for them, for all of us and for future generations.
Eckhoff, A. (2019). Participation Takes Many Forms: Exploring the Frameworks Surrounding Children’s Engagement in Participatory Research. In: Eckhoff, A. (eds) Participatory Research with Young Children. Educating the Young Child, vol 17. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-19365-2_1.
Kotilainen, S. (2022): Introduction: Research interest and methodological approach. In S. Kotilainen (Ed.), Methods in practice: Studying children and youth online (chapter 1), doi: https://doi.org/10.21241/ssoar.83031.