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      Hand-held internet tablets for school-based data collection

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          BackgroundIn the last 20 years, researchers have been using computer self-administered questionnaires to gather data on a wide range of adolescent health related behaviours. More recently, researchers collecting data in schools have started to use smaller hand-held computers for their ease of use and portability. The aim of this study is to describe a new technology with wi-fi enabled hand-held internet tablets and to compare adolescent preferences of laptop computers or hand-held internet tablets in administering a youth health and well-being questionnaire in a school setting.MethodsA total of 177 students took part in a pilot study of a national youth health and wellbeing survey. Students were randomly assigned to internet tablets or laptops at the start of the survey and were changed to the alternate mode of administration about half-way through the questionnaire. Students at the end of the questionnaire were asked which of the two modes of administration (1) they preferred, (2) was easier to use, (3) was more private and confidential, and (4) was easier to answer truthfully.ResultsMany students expressed no preference between laptop computers or internet tablets. However, among the students who expressed a preference between laptop computers or internet tablets, the majority of students found the internet tablets more private and confidential (p < 0.001) and easier to answer questions truthfully (p < 0.001) compared to laptop computers.ConclusionThis study demonstrates that using wi-fi enabled hand-held internet tablets is a feasible methodology for school-based surveys especially when asking about sensitive information.

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          Most cited references 11

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          Asking Sensitive Questions: The Impact of Data Collection Mode, Question Format, and Question Context

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            Influence of physician confidentiality assurances on adolescents' willingness to disclose information and seek future health care. A randomized controlled trial.

            Adolescents' concerns about privacy in clinical settings decrease their willingness to seek health care for sensitive problems and may inhibit their communication with physicians. To investigate the influence of physicians' assurances of confidentiality on adolescents' willingness to disclose information and seek future health care. Randomized controlled trial. Three suburban public high schools in California. The 562 participating adolescents represented 92% of students in mandatory classes. After random assignment to 1 of 3 groups, the adolescents listened to a standardized audiotape depiction of an office visit during which they heard a physician who assured unconditional confidentiality, a physician who assured conditional confidentiality, or a physician who did not mention confidentiality. Adolescents' willingness to disclose general information, willingness to disclose information about sensitive topics, intended honesty, and likelihood of return visits to the physician depicted in the scenario were assessed by anonymous written questionnaire. Assurances of confidentiality increased the number of adolescents willing to disclose sensitive information about sexuality, substance use, and mental health from 39% (68/175) to 46.5% (178/383) (beta=.10, P=.02) and increased the number willing to seek future health care from 53% (93/175) to 67% (259/386) (beta=.17, P<.001). When comparing the unconditional with the conditional groups, assurances of unconditional confidentiality increased the number of adolescents willing to return for a future visit by 10 percentage points, from 62% (122/196) to 72% (137/190) (beta=.14, P=.001). Adolescents are more willing to communicate with and seek health care from physicians who assure confidentiality. Further investigation is needed to identify a confidentiality assurance statement that explains the legal and ethical limitations of confidentiality without decreasing adolescents' likelihood of seeking future health care for routine and nonreportable sensitive health concerns.
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              Comparability of a computer-assisted versus written method for collecting health behavior information from adolescent patients.

              To investigate the comparability of health behavior data obtained from adolescents via notebook computer versus those obtained via written questionnaire. We interviewed adolescent patients (ages 13-20 years) receiving services at community adolescent health clinics. Participants anonymously completed either a computer-assisted self-interview (CASI) or a self-administered questionnaire (SAQ), both assessing health-protective behaviors, substance use (i.e., tobacco, alcohol, marijuana) and sexual behaviors. From a pool of 671 adolescent participants (348 completing CASI, 323 completing SAQ), we matched 194 SAQ participants with 194 CASI participants on the basis of gender and race. We could not match individually on the basis of age, but were able to match each gender-race subgroup by mean age. Across the majority of health behaviors (i.e., all health-protective behaviors, tobacco use, sexual behaviors), mode of administration made no significant difference in the reporting of information by adolescents. However, girls reported a greater frequency of alcohol use and marijuana use on CASI than on SAQ, whereas boys reported a lower frequency of alcohol use and marijuana use on CASI than on SAQ. The findings of this study suggest that there may be gender-related differences between modes of anonymous collection of specific adolescent health behaviors such as alcohol and marijuana use. Future studies should incorporate direct questions regarding adolescents' attitude and comfort levels toward completing different modes of data collection.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Department of Community Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
                [2 ]Section of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
                [3 ]Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
                [4 ]School of Psychology and Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
                BMC Res Notes
                BMC Research Notes
                BioMed Central
                26 July 2008
                : 1
                : 52
                Copyright © 2008 Denny et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                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 work is properly cited.

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