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“It’s important to remember these are not just numbers – these are real people”

A new report launched today reveals young people’s views about their data and how it is collected and stored.

Commissioned by the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR) as part of a collaborative pilot research project in partnership with Children in Scotland, the report shows a keen awareness amongst children and young people of their data, in relation to:

· administrative data collected by public services

· online purchasing habits, and

· social media usage.

SCADR worked with Children in Scotland to hold five workshops with a group of children and young people from across Scotland. The aim was to understand their views about administrative data, data research and how researchers should communicate their research findings.

The group’s view was that it was a good thing for anonymised data on children’s lives to be used to benefit others so long as the information was anonymous and not personal.

However, they felt that organisations weren’t good at telling children (and adults) when their personal data was being collected and for what purpose. They suggested that the majority of people their age would click ‘agree’ to pop-up notices without reading the details on what the data is stored for and the purpose it can be used for.

Among their recommendations, the young people suggested ways to simplify and pick out the important information to be conveyed. On discussing survey results, the participants liked bar charts, as these were familiar. But they also favoured the creative, pictorial presentation of survey findings in, for example, comics or animations.

The group felt that researchers need to ensure that data is communicated in an easy to understand way. It should be engaging, use colour and images, and include links to websites to show references and suggest further reading if people wish to find out more information, they said.

SCADR’s Senior researcher, Dr Robert Porter said:

“We as researchers need to learn from what children and young people are telling us and change how we report findings. Using storylines to explain what the data means, alongside clear, simple graphics, and avoiding jargon and technical language, will enable everyone to engage with our key messages. This will also support children’s rights to learn how their data has been used.”

The children and young people also held discussions on children’s rights and how these relate to children and young people’s data and data research. With the Scottish Government’s commitment to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law, it was important for the group to

be confident that they knew which UNCRC Articles were relevant to ensuring children and young people’s privacy needs were protected.

David Mackay, Policy and Projects Manager at Children in Scotland, said:

“We are delighted that SCADR reached out to us to help find out children and young people’s views about their work. Children and young people have a right to understand and have a say in how their data is captured, stored and used for research. They also have great ideas about how data research findings should be shared with young people.

“We are pleased to hear SCADR will be implementing recommendations from the pilot project and putting children’s rights at the heart of their work moving forward.”

The report includes the key messages the young participants wanted to share with SCADR and other organisations working with children and young people’s data. Their eight key recommendations can also be found in the report.

Professor Morag Treanor, SCADR’s lead on their children's lives and outcomes theme, said:

“We are grateful to Children in Scotland for creating these discussions, and especially grateful to the children and young people who gave up their time and committed themselves fully to engaging with our work. Asking people to discuss data and research is not everyone’s cup of tea and we were hugely fortunate that this group did it whole-heartedly.

“The next steps lie with us. We will keep their recommendations front and centre of our work and will ensure that we communicate our work in ways that are accessible and meaningful to children and young people.”

Click here to read the summary report
Click here to read the final report
Click here to read ADR Scotland’s News release on the launch of this report


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