Ethical Concerns in Usability Research Involving Children

Ethical Concerns in Usability Research Involving Children

Kirsten Ellis (Monash University, Australia), Marian Quigley (Monash University, Australia) and Mark Power (Monash University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-966-3.ch011
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Abstract

This chapter examines the issues in conducting ethical usability testing with children including the special complications presented by the unique characteristics of children. It outlines the process of gaining approval of overseeing bodies to conduct research with children and discusses the difficulties in gaining informed consent from teachers, parents and the children themselves; protection of the research subject from harm and the difficulty of empowering children to instigate their right to refuse to participate in the research project. The chapter also discusses practical issues regarding the research design such as age appropriate practice, the duration of testing and recruitment of participants.
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The Complications Presented By Researching Children

Gaining data from children can be complicated by a number of characteristics that children may exhibit; although not exclusively characteristics of children, they are more prevalent in this group. Read and MacFarlane state, “Factors that impact on question answering include developmental effects including language ability, reading age, and motor skills, as well as temperamental effects such as confidence, self-belief and the desire to please” (2006: 82). The language and concepts used in questions are really important to the results. For example, when Ellis (2008) was researching children in preparatory classes, they were asked to name their most favorite and least favorite activity in an e-learning software application. Over forty percent of children selected the same activity for both, showing they either could not make the selection accurately or they did not understand the concepts. False data may be collected if the children make up answers in order to please the interviewer or if they tell the interviewer what they have been told by adults, rather than giving their own opinion (Hedges, 2001). Therefore when it is possible to collect the same data from a number of sources, this should be instituted. For example, when Ellis (2008) was collecting data regarding children’s preference for characters between a female presenter, a super hero and a puppet, the kindergarten children were able to work with each character for one session. In the next session, they were able to select the character to take the session. When this preference for character was compared with the character that the children stated was their favorite, twenty-five percent changed their preference dependent on the method of asking.

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