Facebook as a recruitment tool for adolescent health research: a systematic review

Acad Pediatr. 2014 Sep-Oct;14(5):439-447.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2014.05.049.


Background: Researchers are increasingly using social media to recruit participants to surveys and clinical studies. However, the evidence of the efficacy and validity of adolescent recruitment through Facebook is yet to be established.

Objective: To conduct a systematic review of the literature on the use of Facebook to recruit adolescents for health research.

Data sources: Nine electronic databases and reference lists were searched for articles published between 2004 and 2013.

Study eligibility criteria: Studies were included in the review if: 1) participants were aged ≥ 10 to ≤ 18 years, 2) studies addressed a physical or mental health issue, 3) Facebook was identified as a recruitment tool, 4) recruitment details using Facebook were outlined in the methods section and considered in the discussion, or information was obtained by contacting the authors, 5) results revealed how many participants were recruited using Facebook, and 6) studies addressed how adolescent consent and/or parental consent was obtained.

Study appraisals and synthesis methods: Titles, abstracts, and keywords were scanned and duplicates removed by 2 reviewers. Full text was evaluated for inclusion criteria, and 2 reviewers independently extracted data.

Results: The search resulted in 587 publications, of which 25 full-text papers were analyzed. Six studies met all the criteria for inclusion in the review. Three recruitment methods using Facebook was identified: 1) paid Facebook advertising, 2) use of the Facebook search tool, and 3) creation and use of a Facebook Page.

Conclusions: Eligible studies described the use of paid Facebook advertising and Facebook as a search tool as methods to successfully recruit adolescent participants. Online and verbal consent was obtained from participants recruited from Facebook.

Keywords: adolescent; ethics; research; research design; social media.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Social Media
  • Social Networking*