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Blog #SaferInternetDay CO:RE at TUNI Published: 06 Feb 2023

Safer Internet calls for sustained research with children and young

The annual Safer Internet Day highlights the importance of youth critical awareness of digital cultures online. What about making the internet safer for children as well? One way to advance that political and platform logical change is to do research WITH children and young people on their digital cultures. A participatory approach can raise participants’ awareness of the phenomenon they are studying, in this case, the people’s awareness of the internet as artificial construction. What may follow is that young generations themselves will stand up to demand a more safer internet policy.

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.

Further readings

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.

image/svg+xml art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed by PLoS. This version with transparent background. art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, JakobVoss, and AnonMoos Kotilainen, S. (2022): Introduction: Research interest and methodological approach. In S. Kotilainen (Ed.), Methods in practice: Studying children and youth online (chapter 1), doi:

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Sirkku Kotilainen

Sirkku Kotilainen, PhD, is a professor in Communication Sciences at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences of Tampere University (FI). She has over 20 years of experience in research topics mainly covering digital literacies and media education among children and youth, teacher’s media competencies and media education in youth work. More recently, her research has focused on promoting media education among at-risk youth and, methodological developments in co-research with young people as empirical experts in their uses of online media.

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