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Ethics & Risks of Accessing Adolescents' Social Media Data

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Kara Bagot

Posts: 3

I am submitting an IRB proposal for a new study, a component of which proposes accessing adolescents' Instagram accounts and identifying salient user content for individualized stimuli in a cue-activation fMRI task. I want to preemptivelyaddress potential risks and the ethics of this but am unable to find literature on accessing and monitoring adolescents' social media accounts, and using personal images and messages. Any advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated!

John Torous

Posts: 15

This is an interesting study. You may find guidance in this other instragram study / Taking a step back, it be important to also assess what subset of the population uses instagram and how representive a sample they may or may not be.

Luke Gelinas

Posts: 1
posted in reply to kara bagot

If you email me I am just finishing up a piece on ethics of using social media to recruit pediatric subjects I can send you:

t may touch on some of the issues you're thinking about. I assume you're not proposing to make contact with people, just use their publicly availabe data?

Kara Bagot

Posts: 3

We will be recruiting substance using adolescents for a behavioral & neuroimaging study through traditional means (schools and outpatient treatment centers). Eligibility criteria includes having and using social media. They will have to consent to allow the research account 'follow' them for 2 weeks to identify content that we will use as stimuli in a fMRI cue-reactivity task. Each particpant will have individualized stimuli for the task based on images he/she posted that garnered a significant number of likes (relative to total number of friends/followers) or none-few likes.
We won't contact them through social media, but we do want access to their public and private posts.

Kara Bagot

Posts: 3
posted in reply to john torous

Thanks for the reference! I've found in my current qualitative study (goal n=80) that nearly all the adolescent marijuana users (the population we are targeting for the imaging study as well) use Instagram, and about half will post photos of drug paraphanelia (e.g. bongs, pipes, rigs). There also seems to be some suggestion in the literature that adolescents are more likley to post photos glamorizing substance use on Instagram. This is definitely a subset of the general adolescent population however, and is likely not representative of adolescents at large.

Lisa Militello

Posts: 5

Best of luck as this sounds interesting.
I have children in this age range and this came across one of my feeds; and you may already be aware of mulitple online identities, but the topic below may be also worth exploring in your research.


"If you ask anyone under the age of 21 where they post most frequently on Instagram, chances are they'll tell you it's to their finsta.
Finsta stands for "fake instagram." It's a separate, locked account with a nonsensical name that teens use to share everything from bad selfies, emotional rants, funny memes, screenshots of texts, homework help and more to a small, select group of friends.
Unlike a teen's "real instagram" or "rinsta," where their image is carefully curated for public consumption, finsta is intimate and messy and, according to every teen we spoke to, way more authentic than their main profile."

Rubi Linares-Orozco

Posts: 34

Resource for California Human Research Studies- "Understanding Confidentiality and Minor Consent in California"
The resource is more applicable to adolescent medical information, however it covers CA law and confidentiality practices when working with adolescent youth that may be applicable to Adolescent data research studies.