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Ethical Research Involving Children

Youth participation in research on multiliteracies: Ethical perspectives.

Pienimäki, M., & Kotilainen, S. (2018). Youth participation in research on multiliteracies: Ethical perspectives. Media Education Journal, 8(1), pp. 115-132.

Abstract: In research ethics, protecting the anonymity and privacy of research participants is the norm, especially vulnerable children and young people. By contrast, publicity and author- ship are key features of the participatory media culture surrounding youth in everyday life. Participating in publicity and taking pride in one’s media text can be empowering for youth. Thus, how can protection and participation be consolidated into an action-based research study on multiliteracies with the aim to empower minors as actors in public media culture? The pedagogy of multiliteracies aims to involve participants in redesigning the acquired understanding of, for instance, media texts. This paper examines the ethical challenges of conducting a study with vulnerable young people and discusses overcoming these challenges. The research consists of seven sub-studies as media workshops promoting self- expression among youth. Its participants are mainly 15–20 years old (altogether close to 100), including unemployed, depressed, dyslexic and immigrated individuals. The data includes observation diaries, interviews, audio-visual materials and questionnaires. A central ethical dilemma identified was the difficulty in balancing the protection and participation of youth. To overcome this dilemma, this paper discusses four key issues of research ethics arising based on the research: informing, privacy, anonymity and co-researching. Finally, it is proposed that research ethics be reconsidered a constant process and aware- ness of ethics throughout a study. This kind of approach to ethics emphasises the good intentions of researchers and —especially with vulnerable youth in focus— the understanding of participation as exercising self-determination, including involvement in decision-making in research ethics.

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