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      Ethical issues in using the internet to engage participants in family and child research: A scoping review

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          Abstract

          Background

          The internet is an increasingly popular tool in family and child research that is argued to pose new ethical challenges, yet few studies have systematically assessed the ethical issues of engaging parents and children in research online. This scoping review aims to identify and integrate evidence on the ethical issues reported when recruiting, retaining and tracing families and children in research online, and to identify ethical guidelines for internet research.

          Methods

          Academic literature was searched using electronic academic databases (Scopus, PsycINFO, Embase, ERIC, CINAHL and Informit) and handsearching reference lists for articles published in English between January 2006 and February 2016. Grey literature was searched using Google to identify relevant ethical guidelines.

          Results

          Sixty-five academic articles were included after screening 3,537 titles and abstracts and 205 full-text articles. Most articles reported using the internet to recruit participants (88%) with few reporting online retention (12%) or tracing (10%). Forty percent commented on ethical issues; the majority did not discuss ethics beyond general consent or approval procedures. Some ethical concerns were specific to engaging minors online, including parental consent, age verification and children’s vulnerability. Other concerns applied when engaging any research participant online, including privacy and confidentiality, informed consent and disparities in internet access. Five professional guidelines and 10 university guidelines on internet research ethics were identified. Few academic articles (5%) reported using these guidelines.

          Conclusions

          Engaging families and children in research online introduces unique challenges requiring careful consideration. While researchers regarded themselves as responsible for ensuring research is conducted ethically, lack of use of available guidelines and limited academic literature suggests internet research is occurring without suitable guidance. We recommend broad dissemination of ethical guidelines and encourage researchers to report the methodological and ethical issues of using the internet to engage families and children in research.

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          Most cited references 84

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          Psychological research online: report of Board of Scientific Affairs' Advisory Group on the Conduct of Research on the Internet.

          As the Internet has changed communication, commerce, and the distribution of information, so too it is changing psychological research. Psychologists can observe new or rare phenomena online and can do research on traditional psychological topics more efficiently, enabling them to expand the scale and scope of their research. Yet these opportunities entail risk both to research quality and to human subjects. Internet research is inherently no more risky than traditional observational, survey, or experimental methods. Yet the risks and safeguards against them will differ from those characterizing traditional research and will themselves change over time. This article describes some benefits and challenges of conducting psychological research via the Internet and offers recommendations to both researchers and institutional review boards for dealing with them. ((c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved) (c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved
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            Web-Based Recruiting for Health Research Using a Social Networking Site: An Exploratory Study

            Background Recruitment of young people for health research by traditional methods has become more expensive and challenging over recent decades. The Internet presents an opportunity for innovative recruitment modalities. Objective To assess the feasibility of recruiting young females using targeted advertising on the social networking site Facebook. Methods We placed an advertisement on Facebook from May to September 2010, inviting 16- to 25-year-old females from Victoria, Australia, to participate in a health study. Those who clicked on the advertisement were redirected to the study website and were able to express interest by submitting their contact details online. They were contacted by a researcher who assessed eligibility and invited them to complete a health-related survey, which they could do confidentially and securely either at the study site or remotely online. Results A total of 551 females responded to the advertisement, of whom 426 agreed to participate, with 278 completing the survey (139 at the study site and 139 remotely). Respondents’ age distribution was representative of the target population, while 18- to 25-year-olds were more likely to be enrolled in the study and complete the survey than 16- to 17-year-olds (prevalence ratio = 1.37, 95% confidence interval 1.05–1.78, P = .02). The broad geographic distribution (major city, inner regional, and outer regional/remote) and socioeconomic profile of participants matched the target population. Predictors of participation were older age, higher education level, and higher body mass index. Average cost in advertising fees per compliant participant was US $20, making this highly cost effective. Conclusions Results demonstrate the potential of using modern information and communication technologies to engage young women in health research and penetrate into nonurban communities. The success of this method has implications for future medical and population research in this and other demographics.
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              Recruiting for health, medical or psychosocial research using Facebook: Systematic review

              Recruiting participants is a challenge for many health, medical and psychosocial research projects. One tool more frequently being used to improve recruitment is the social networking website Facebook. A systematic review was conducted to identify studies that have used Facebook to recruit participants of all ages, to any psychosocial, health or medical research. 110 unique studies that used Facebook as a recruitment source were included in the review. The majority of studies used a cross-sectional design (80%) and addressed a physical health or disease issue (57%). Half (49%) of the included studies reported specific details of the Facebook recruitment process. Researchers paid between $1.36 and $110 per completing participants (Mean = $17.48, SD = $23.06). Among studies that examined the representativeness of their sample, the majority concluded (86%) their Facebook-recruited samples were similarly representative of samples recruited via traditional methods. These results indicate that Facebook is an effective and cost-efficient recruitment method. Researchers should consider their target group, advertisement wording, offering incentives and no-cost methods of recruitment when considering Facebook as a recruitment source. It is hoped this review will assist researchers to make decisions regarding the use of Facebook as a recruitment tool in future research.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: ValidationRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: SupervisionRole: ValidationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: InvestigationRole: ValidationRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: InvestigationRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: MethodologyRole: ResourcesRole: SupervisionRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: SupervisionRole: ValidationRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                27 September 2018
                2018
                : 13
                : 9
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
                [2 ] Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
                [3 ] Parenting Research Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
                [4 ] Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
                [5 ] Department of Communications and Media, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
                [6 ] Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
                [7 ] School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
                [8 ] La Trobe Law School, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
                University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UNITED STATES
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Article
                PONE-D-18-00287
                10.1371/journal.pone.0204572
                6160098
                30261041
                © 2018 Hokke et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 4, Pages: 30
                Product
                Funding
                This work was funded by La Trobe University through the Transforming Human Societies Research Focus Area Scheme 1, 2015; Associate Pro Vice Chancellor (Research), College of Science, Health & Engineering; and Pro Vice Chancellor (Research). Authors SH, NJH, NQ, SKB, JMN and SBC were supported by the Roberta Holmes Transition to Contemporary Parenthood Program (Australian Communities Foundation, Coronella sub-fund). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Computer and Information Sciences
                Computer Networks
                Internet
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Communications
                Social Communication
                Social Media
                Computer and Information Sciences
                Network Analysis
                Social Networks
                Social Media
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Social Networks
                Social Media
                Research and Analysis Methods
                Research Assessment
                Research Reporting Guidelines
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Social Research
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Communications
                Social Communication
                Social Media
                Facebook
                Computer and Information Sciences
                Network Analysis
                Social Networks
                Social Media
                Facebook
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Social Networks
                Social Media
                Facebook
                People and Places
                Population Groupings
                Age Groups
                Children
                People and Places
                Population Groupings
                Families
                Children
                People and Places
                Population Groupings
                Age Groups
                Children
                Adolescents
                People and Places
                Population Groupings
                Families
                Children
                Adolescents
                Research and Analysis Methods
                Database and Informatics Methods
                Database Searching
                Custom metadata
                All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files.

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