Starting with ethics

These pages cover the basics on ethical issues that researchers should consider when using digital media.

Being an ethical researcher

Ensuring that research is ethical is central to undertaking research with children and young people. Using digital media does not affect this commitment.

The core ethical issues that need to be addressed when using digital media are likely to be similar to more traditional research. For example, securing young people’s informed consent, and being clear about the boundaries of confidentiality and anonymity, require careful consideration whether the research is online or offline. However, how you address these ethical considerations may be different in an online context.

Ten points to consider: researching ethically

  • Seek children’s informed consent
  • Seek the consent of parents and carers where appropriate
  • Provide information and the opportunity to discuss the research with young people
  • Consider how children will be engaged in the research as participants and co-producers
  • Ensure that research is inclusive and takes into account the different needs of young people
  • Consider how to ensure confidentiality and anonymity in the research where it is required
  • Be clear about limits to confidentiality and anonymity where a child is unsafe or in danger of being harmed
  • Take into account the child protection protocols and procedures of any organisations involved in your research
  • Provide feedback to children during and after research
  • Disseminate findings respectfully, acknowledging the contribution of young people.

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“Problem solving is an intrinsic part of working with digital media. It’s just in the nature of it that things tend to break down and need a bit of fixing.”
Michael Gallagher, University of Glasgow