Durham, NC  (October 28, 2016) – Drs. Rebecca Stelter and Janis Kupersmidt presented a poster, entitled “Addressing the Connectivity Challenge in Data Collection with Children and Families,” at the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Special Topic Meeting: Technology and Media in Children’s Development in Irvine, California on October 28, 2016. The conference featured researchers and organizations studying how youth use technology, as well as how technology and media could be used as tools for research and intervention.

The goal of this poster was to describe the development of an app that allows research and data collection to be both portable and flexible in order to meet the needs of researchers, intervention staff, and study participants. Unfortunately, traditional pen-and-paper methods can be labor intensive, cumbersome, and lead to leaks of sensitive data.  While Web-based methods are in demand because they provide more mobility and include audio-visual features that improve accessibility, inconsistent access to the Internet in low-income and rural areas reduces access to this technology for researchers and participants.  iRT’s Data Collection App can be used to collect data without an internet connection on any Android device; thus, it provides a convenient and secure method for collecting data across locations.

The app is well designed for questionnaire completion by study participants, using an intuitive, child-friendly design, and that features the inclusion of image and audio files for struggling readers.  These populations of youth can use the app without assistance from research staff or data collectors which creates a comfortable environment for participants to share possibly sensitive information.  The app allows participants to use phones or tablets to complete surveys.

Program staff can develop questionnaires based upon a library of videos and validated measures or create their own. After creating their survey, program staff can enroll participants in the study online and create secure log-in names for each participant. Programs can also choose when to deploy the surveys, check survey completion, and email reminders to participants through the software system.

Security is of the utmost importance for collecting and storing research data, and using technology can create opportunities for breeches in security. Knowing this, the iRT Data Collection App was designed to be able to transmit data over Wi-Fi using secure, encrypted connections.

The iRT Data Collection App is currently being used in a multi-site, longitudinal, person-randomized controlled trial involving over 1,400 children participating in community-based mentoring relationships across 20 programs.  Future updates to the App will include optimization for usage across a wide variety of mobile devices as well as increasing flexibility to accommodate a wide variety of research designs and settings.

The project described was supported in part by Grant # 2014-JU-FX-0004 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.