Background and aims Engaging children in research about their lives is an essential component of providing excellent health care services. Utilising participatory, visual/arts-based approaches such as photo-elicitation (PE) can extend opportunities for children to reflect on and talk about their lives. This paper aims to explore the use of, benefits and issues associated with using PE with children.
Methods PE is a participatory, qualitative method that does not rely on high levels of verbal or written literacy and which creates equitable conditions for children’s engagement in research. Within a broad brief, children are asked to take topic-related photos. Apart from safety/privacy related guidance about where it might not be appropriate to take photographs, the children are free to take any image that has meaning to them. The children then select the images they wish to discuss and the researcher literally has to ‘follow’ the children’s data and adopt a flexible approach to the conversational interview.
Results Reflecting on our experience with PE we note how the quality of discussion is enhanced and intriguing and unexpected insights into children’s lives are revealed. What children choose to photograph or omit can create interesting tensions; these and other lessons will be shared along with exemplar photographs and stories.
Conclusions Although PE provides considerable opportunities and benefits, it is challenging research to be part of and requires skilled researchers to ensure children are safe during research engagement and that the data provides a robust depth of insight into their lives.