Q: I have a question about research ethics and research methods.
I am planning to collect behavioral data of a group of children in a room by shooting with a video camera. However, there is a mixture of children who agree or disagree with this study. Consisting the group with the only consenters is difficult due to the actual situation in the field.
So, I consider using only the data of consenters, although the data of non-consenters are also recorded as video data. Is this method ethically problematic?
Your advice would be appreciated.
Photography and videography of human subjects can have ethical and legal implications.
There are ethics bodies to oversee ethical conduct of studies on humans. Social and behavioral studies involving humans need to be reviewed by an institutional review board or a relevant ethics body. Most studies are expected be conducted with the fully informed consent of each participant. Note that in the case of studies on children, consent from their parents or primary caregivers and assent from the children themselves (where possible, i.e., depending on the age) should be obtained prior to the study.
However, there are exceptions, e.g., consent is not required for observation of behavior in public situations, as long as no identities are recorded. In some cases, signed consent may be waived with the justification that it is not feasible to obtain signed consent from all involved and that the risks are minimal.
From your question, it appears that the recording location is a room and not a public space, where there may be limited control over the participants. If you are still at the planning stage and can control subject participation, we recommend that you record videos of participants from whom consent and assent have been obtained. However, if you are using a video recording taken at a public place, you could request the ethics committee overseeing the study to waive the requirement for consent. You can explain in detail the limitations of obtaining consent/assent from all the children in the field. You can assure them that the identity of the non-consenting participants will remain protected, as you will not use their data and their faces will be blurred or de-identified in some way. Further, you will need to justify the need for such a study and how it advances research in your field.
Tracking and recording children’s behavior might have legal implications. In different countries, laws for such issues might differ. In Japan, taking a picture of a person in a public space, publishing pictures of a person in a public space, and commercial use of such a published picture all require consent, with some exceptions. According to the Japan Professional Photographers Society, if the expression (photograph or in your case, recording) is reasonably a matter of interest within the society, and the content and method of expression is not unjust, an individual may be photographed or published without the person’s consent. The purpose of your recording is purely academic, and therefore, from a legal standpoint as well, it should fall in the category of exemption from consent.