Ethical issues in a study of Internet use: uncertainty, responsibility, and the spirit of research relationships

Ethics Behav. 1996;6(2):141-51. doi: 10.1207/s15327019eb0602_5.


In this article we explore ethical issues arising in a study of home Internet use by low-income families. We consider questions of our responsibility as educational researchers and discuss the ethical implications of some unanticipated consequences of our study. We illustrate ways in which the principles of research ethics for use of human subjects can be ambiguous and possibly inadequate for anticipating potential harm in educational research. In this exploratory research of personal communication technologies, participants experienced changes that were personal and relational. These unanticipated changes in their way of being complicated our research relationships, testing the boundaries of our committment to the principle of trustworthiness and forcing us to reevaluate our responsibilities.

MeSH terms

  • Behavioral Research*
  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Computer Communication Networks*
  • Computers*
  • Disclosure
  • Education*
  • Ethics, Professional
  • Human Experimentation
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Internet*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Parents
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design
  • Research Personnel
  • Research Subjects
  • Research*
  • Risk
  • Risk Assessment
  • Self Concept
  • Social Sciences
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Students
  • United States
  • Vulnerable Populations*