Obtaining parental consent for children

The need for parental consent for including children in a survey is a gray area in many countries. It is my view that unless there exist legal requirements stating otherwise, it may not always be necessary to ask for parental consent when surveying school children. In the case of 'neutral' questionnaires that do not contain any personally sensitive information, permission to conduct the survey can be granted by the children's teachers. Teachers are usually aware of the significance of legal matters and therefore if they have any doubts about who should authorize the project, they will seek advice.

In case parental permission for the research is needed, a common procedure is to send an information leaflet along with a consent form to the children's parents to be signed. In order to avoid cases when the parent has nothing against the survey but simply forgets to return the consent form, a better way to go about this (provided, of course, there are no contradicting legal requirements) is to merely advise the parents about the proposed research and the fact that their child has been chosen (among others) to take part in it, and that parental permission will be assumed unless the parents object before the proposed starting date (Oppenheim, 1992).

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