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Children helping science by taking part in online studies

  • Date

    Wed 27 May 20

Two teenagers

Parents and children willing to take part in online scientific studies are being encouraged to sign up to a new database which will match them with researchers at universities across the globe, including Essex.

Developmental Neuroscientist and Paediatric Psychologist Dr Megan Klabunde, from the University of Essex, will benefit from the Children Helping Science website and linked database, which aim to make sure vital research can continue despite the restrictions imposed because of COVID-19.

Dr Klabunde is hoping to recruit participants for two studies, one looking at how adolescents process empathy and the other which will help develop a questionnaire that assesses how children feel about their bodies. 

As she explained: “The more we understand about how children and adolescents feel about their bodies and empathise with one another, the more effective we can be at building a safer and healthier world. But to do this we rely heavily on scientific experiments and information from both children and parents. This is harder to achieve when we are living with social distancing.

“Through the database and website, we hope to cast our net wide and recruit many more people to take part in our studies – it is fun for families to take part, and at the same time they will be helping science.”

The website includes studies for all age groups and from universities around the world. The requirements for each one varies, but could include responding to a survey, completing an activity or taking part in a video chat with a researcher.

The studies cover everything from the use of virtual reality in home schooling through looking at creativity, problem-solving skills or musical ability, to examining how children perceive their body or how children rate the emotions of people in videos.

“Without the database and website, I wouldn’t have been able to continue my work.  We really need the information children and parents can provide, so researchers put a lot of effort into making it fun for people to take part in their studies.

“We have had to adapt the way we do things because of COVID-19, but it may prove to be very beneficial if it links up participants and researchers around the world,” added Dr Klabunde.

Potential participants can either sign up to the database, to be sent information about studies that might interest them, or they can go onto the website to pick which ones they want to take part in. All of the studies have been ethically-approved by the relevant university, and participants can withdraw at any time.