Insights UK regulator publishes takeaways from roundtables examining child online safety research methods


Ofcom, the UK regulator for online safety, already conducts extensive research into childrens’ online habits including under its Media Literacy Research Programme, its Online Experience Tracker and its suite of research on online communications amongst children. To build on and further develop this existing research, Ofcom held roundtables in Autumn 2023, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders, to explore the pros and cons of different research methods. On 9 February 2024, it published key takeaways from the roundtables. The takeaways include the pros and cons of conducting research in schools, conducting research where children are an intrinsic part of the development of the research project and materials, the use of data donation (an innovative method for researchers to access data on a person’s online behaviour with informed consent with a view to providing a detailed picture of a person’s online activity) and the use of avatars (the use of fictional accounts with the aim of understanding the content that is served to children online). The discussions also revealed that children need the chance to change their minds about their views during research fieldwork and be able to modify their previous responses, as they can take time to become comfortable in an interview setting. Children also tend to be more comfortable speaking to other children.

Ofcom proposes to bring these takeaways into its work including in planning for additional research.

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