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

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Citizens and scientists 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 a conceptual framework and a template for initial involvement of citizens 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 ensure that scientists will: enable a long-term commitment and inclusive opportunities for citizens, challenge established power hierarchies, and support collaboration, co-production and co-authorship with citizens. We believe that the proposed practical guidelines and ethical considerations, provide a valuable foundation on which to advance our understanding and generate international strategies for citizen involvement in PUI.
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citizen consultation, conceptual framework, early research, emerging discipline, ethical considerations, problematic usage of the internet, public health