Students information



We would like to invite you to take part in a research study. Before you decide whether you would like to take part it is important that you understand why the research is being done and what it would involve for you. Please take time to read the following information carefully and discuss it with others if you wish. Ask if there is anything that is not clear or if you would like more information.

It is up to you to decide whether or not to take part. If you do decide to take part you will be asked to sign a consent form. If you decide to take part you are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason. 


WHAT ARE YOU RESEARCHING? … I am interested in what young people think about different behaviour online and certain comments on social media, especially whether or not you think they could get you into any trouble.

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? … There have been a lot of stories in the news recently about young people getting into trouble (with police, with their school or at their job, for example) because of something they’ve said or done online. I’m interested in what students themselves think about it.

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO FIND OUT? … As much as I can about your opinions! There are no right or wrong answers – it’s not a test: It’s just a chance to have your say about what you think about different things online. I’m going to be asking a lot of young people about this, so hopefully I will end up with lots of different opinions from students of all ages.

HOW DOES IT WORK? … I will have arranged with your school to come in and run a workshop. During the class, I will give out different examples of comments or behaviour online or on social media. I’ll then give you a chance to talk about them in pairs or small groups and what you think about it. After some discussion, I’ll ask you to tell the rest of us whether you think there’s anything ‘risky’ about the examples and why. Other students in the class will also have a chance to talk about each example and whether they agree or not. I’ll be making notes of what people are saying. Afterwards I’ll explain to everyone in class what (if any) problems there could be with each example – so that you know for the future. Once I’ve got some results I may come back to have another discussion session (focus group) with students about some of the things I’ve found out.

WILL YOU BE RECORDING THE SESSIONS? … No. Because not everyone feels comfortable being recorded, I am just going to take hand-written notes instead.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE? … Only as long as a normal class at school, so (depending on the school timetable) anywhere between 45 minutes and 1 hour 15 minutes. It’ll be up to the school.

WHERE WILL IT TAKE PLACE? … All the workshops and any focus groups will happen within the school day and on school property (probably just in a normal classroom).

WHAT DO I GET OUT OF IT? … Above all, the chance to share your opinions with someone who is interested in them!  Hopefully you will also learn some new things about the law and social media. After the workshop, you should have a better idea of what things will or won’t get you into trouble online. Also, you will be able to ask any questions you want to the researcher, who has worked as a professional journalist and is knowledgeable about Media Law and Ethics.

HOW CAN I TAKE PART? … You are welcome to take part as long as:

  1. a) You are aged between 11 and 18 and are currently at Secondary school.
  2. b) Your school has given permission for the workshops to take place.
  3. c) A parent or guardian has filled in a consent form saying they’re happy for you to take part.
  4. d) You have read the information about the research and filled in a consent form saying you agree to taking part.

Once you’ve got permission from parents/guardians and the school and filled in a form to say you’re happy to take part, all you need to do is come along to the session and share your thoughts! There is no writing involved in these sessions, it just involves reading some examples and having a discussion with your classmates.

WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO TAKE PART? … That’s fine: you don’t have to. This is a voluntary workshop, which means no-one has to take part if they don’t want to. You just need to let your parents/guardian and your teacher know. Even if the workshop has already started, if you change your mind and don’t want to take part, you are allowed to pull out. It’s 100% up to you.

WHAT WILL THE NOTES BE USED FOR? … The notes I’ve made will form the basis of my thesis, which is part of my PhD project. The results from each school will all be put together and studied. Once I have some results from this, I may come back into schools to discuss some of my ideas with the students to see what they think. All of my notes will eventually be written up into ‘findings’. These will eventually be published so that academics, people in education and anyone else who may be interested can read about it. I may also share some of my findings at conferences and events, or with other organisations that may be interested (such as the police, other schools, education authorities or even social media companies themselves). The aim of my research is to try and make sure young people’s views and considered when people are making decisions that might affect them.

WILL ANYONE KNOW IT’S ME IN THE STUDY? … No. The notes I make will only include students’ gender (how many boys/girls in a session) and age (what yeargroup the students are in), so no-one will be able to trace any comments back to you, or anyone else. The only thing with your name on will be the consent forms, which I will keep locked in a safe place and won’t share with anyone.

CAN WE SEE THE RESULTS? … After each workshop, I will be meeting with a teacher from the school to talk about some of the notes I’ve made. This is for 3 main reasons:

  1. They may be interested to find out more about their students’ thoughts about Social Media
  2. It could possibly help them plan future classes related to the Internet and Social Media safety
  3. In case anything happens during the workshop that might be a concern, I can make sure the school is aware of it (for example, if I’m worried that a student could be in danger or need help)

Some students may be invited to come to another discussion about some of the ideas I’ve had from my notes in the workshops. These are called focus groups. Again, I will be making notes of what students think about some of the things we discuss. This could be quite an exciting chance for students to shape some of the conclusions I make in my work, but, again, this will also be voluntary and students will only take part if they want to.

When all my notes have been gathered and I’ve looked at them in detail, I will probably be writing articles about it and perhaps presenting some of the ideas at events etc. But the main work will be my thesis, which is basically a really long essay. This will be public, which means it’ll be available for anyone to read it who is interested. If you think you’d like to see or hear about the final results, the best thing to do is let the school know, so I can stay in touch with them and let them know when it’s finished in case you want to read it.

WHAT IF SOMETHING COMES UP IN THE WORKSHOP I DON’T LIKE? … If there’s anything that upsets someone or makes them feel uncomfortable, the best thing to do is let the teacher know. A teacher or tutor will be in with the researcher at all times to make sure students are okay. If a student wants to leave, that’s fine and they will be allowed to. If you become worried because of something that’s been talked about in the workshop, it is really important to tell either their teacher, me or another trusted adult about it.

If I (the researcher) think a student might be at risk, because of something that’s been said or done during the workshop, then I have to tell a teacher at the school about it. This is another reason why it is important for me to meet with at least one member of staff straight after the class. This is what’s known as ‘Child Safeguarding’ and the rules are there to protect young people. Your school will have a Designated Safeguarding Person (DSP) who can explain more about this and is also the best person to talk to about any concerns. You can also see the section marked ‘Safeguarding’ for more details.

Some of the topics we’ll be talking about in the workshop might include things like cyber-bullying or sexting, which can sometimes make people confused, feel awkward or worried. The good news is, there are a lot of organisations that can help give advice and support on things like this and are designed to be used by young people. The best one is probably ChildLine. You can find out more about them, and other organisations (plus how to get in touch with them) under the heading ‘Further Support’.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU’RE SAFE TO WORK WITH CHILDREN? … The university I work for has done background checks on me to make sure I don’t have any previous convictions for crimes and that I’m okay to work with children. This is done through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). I’ve been given a certificate for this, which the school can ask for if it wants to see proof.  I’ve also had up-to-date Child Protection Training, so that I can recognize, respond to and know how to report any concerns I might have about students’ safety. I’ve done this by completing an online course through the NSPCC. More information on this can be found under the ‘Safeguarding’ heading.

I’ve also had quite a lot of experience working with young people before, as I’ve already delivered this kind of training to thousands of young people across Secondary schools in Surrey. You can find out more about that by clicking on ‘Previous Work’ or ‘Testimonials’.

Finally: If you have any other questions please do feel free to get in touch with me directly. I’m more than happy to answer any questions from parents, teachers, students or anyone else who is interested in what I’m doing. Click on the heading ‘Contact’ to find out how to get in touch.

WHAT IF THERE IS A PROBLEM? … If there’s anything you’re unhappy or worried about the best thing to do is to talk to a trusted adult about it (parents/guardians or teachers at the school, for example) and they will be able to take it from there. If, for any reason, you were not comfortable or happy with how the workshops were run, again, the best thing to do is talk to the school and also your parents/guardians about it, who will be able to get in touch with me or the university.

If you think you would like to take part in this research, please consider talking about it with your parent(s)/guardian(s), teachers at your school and your classmates first.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information!


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