Social media, apps, and wearable technologies: navigating ethical dilemmas and procedures

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There is a growing body of literature dealing with the ethical issues of conducting digital- and Internet-based research, yet relatively little has been written about social media, apps and wearable devices. Using three empirical case studies of ethical challenges and dilemmas in the context of physical education, this clear gap in understanding is addressed. The case studies reveal that ethical issues unique to digital research are, (i) the questionable involvement of human subjects, (ii) the traceability of individuals and data, and (iii) the diverse interactional capabilities of digital technologies. Large numbers of participants, the international nature of research and legal matters are also ethical issues intensified by the use of social media, apps, and wearable devices. To address such ethical issues, a culturally responsive relational and reflexive approach to ethics is signposted as one way forward. New insights from the case studies were also provided on the types of ethical procedures researchers might follow. Yet despite this paper providing novel understandings on digital- and Internet-based ethics within sport, exercise and health, in order to advance research and practice the importance of embarking on a professional wide digital research ethics debate is stressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-302
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Issue number3
Early online date28 Mar 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Mar 2017


  • Ethics
  • social media
  • digital
  • Internet
  • apps
  • FitBits
  • GoPro’s
  • consent
  • anonymity
  • risk


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