Citizen Consultation on Problematic Usage of the Internet: Ethical Considerations and Empirical Insights from Six Countries

Biljana Gjoneska, Julia Jones, Anna Maria Vella, Philip Bonanno, Katerina Flora, Andres Fontalba-Navas, Natalie Hall, Liljana Ignjatova, Zviad Kirtava, Daniel Moreno Sanjuan, Maria Piedade Vaz-Rebelo, Celia M Sales

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Scientists and citizens can work together to improve the collective well-being, if citizens are inspired to help the advancement of science, and researchers motivated to listen to the voices of citizens. The benefits of such collaboration are increasingly recognized by both citizens and scientists, as reflected in the growing number of related publications and initiatives. This is especially relevant for emerging areas of research, where early involvement of citizens could help to envision, prioritize and plan prospective studies. The Problematic Usage of the Internet (PUI) is one such area, which is fast becoming a public mental health concern. However, there remains a lack of clarity regarding the practical guidelines and ethical requirements for citizen involvement at the earliest stages of PUI.

In our paper, we propose 12 a conceptual framework and a template for citizen involvement in PUI. They are derived from our community case studies, conducted in six European countries (Georgia Greece, Malta, North Macedonia, Portugal and Spain) and consisting of consultation with diverse groups of interested citizens (students, parents, teachers and health professionals). Informed by our consultation exercises, we also highlight four ethical aspects for citizen involvement in the research on PUI or novel disciplines in general. They follow simple guiding principles to make sure that scientists: enable a long-term commitment and inclusive opportunities for citizens, challenge established power hierarchies, and support collaboration, co-production and co-authorship with citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Article number587459
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • citizen involvement
  • PPI
  • Problematic internet use
  • europe
  • ethical challenges


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