How to Conduct Research with Children

children in circle listening to teacher

Children are incredibly insightful and often surprise adults with their intuitiveness. This is especially true when it comes to market research. Just as marketing to children requires a careful approach, so to does conducting research with them.

Most companies either forgo conducting research with kids solely because of the challenge it poses or only incorporate traditional methodologies like in-person focus groups in their strategies. Today, online market research with children is still rare and only the truly innovative and kid-oriented brands attempt it. But many retailers, media firms, consumer packaged goods brands, and even technology companies could benefit from a partner who can provide a guided and accessible approach to conducting market research with children.

1. Adhere to Legal Implications

It’s not surprising to find that when targeting minors for research there are certain legal and ethical implications to consider. First off, researchers must comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), in addition to other data privacy regulations businesses choose to follow, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). COPPA requires specific disclosures and approved consent from the child and parent before conducting research with them.

Ethically, after the research has been executed, more thought has to be put into safeguarding the data by keeping results anonymous and confidential. While obtaining consent, be sure to include the study subject matter and be clear in how the data is being used.

2. Prepare for Fielding & Sampling

It’s typical for unique audiences such as pregnant mothers, business owners, healthcare professionals, and others to be more difficult to reach through traditional panel providers. Gaining access to children for research is no different. As a result, the total cost of the project can be greater as a result of sampling expenses. Additionally, the fielding time can be longer to ensure enough time to reach the necessary sample size. Ultimately, prepare yourself for a longer project timeline and a greater cost and consider an agile solution to help offset some of the burden.

3. Apply Psychology

Understanding children’s psychological needs, motivations, and behaviors requires an entirely different approach compared to the psychology of adults. So, when conducting research it can be incredibly helpful to apply similar practices. For example

  • Children struggle to interpret and act with abstract thought
  • It’s more difficult for children to stay focused
  • Children don’t gain a higher level of discernment until age 9
  • The egocentric nature of children means they are usually more honest, but less empathetic

Keeping these aspects of children in mind will likely change the way researchers craft a questionnaire or interpret results. In the end, taking a careful approach to conducting research with children by laying the right groundwork and utilizing these best practices means brands can more confidently—and more frequently—conduct research with kids. To learn more about each of these steps and our specific recommendations, read our full eGuide on conducting research with children.

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