Abstract: Primary school children participating as researchers has become a moral obligation to meet the goal of children’s participation rights. Yet, critical voices rarely question the ethical and practical implications of turning young children into mini-clones of adult researchers. While enabling and constraining aspects of participatory methods and inherent power issues per se are widely discussed, adult researchers still seem to struggle to critically engage with celebratory accounts of children as researchers. In particular, the practical obligations, ethical challenges and tensions that impact on primary school children’s research experiences, are underexplored. Findings from two projects on play, which engaged children as active researchers, suggest that more attention needs to be paid to the messy realities of becoming and being a child researcher. In particular, researchers should be more attuned to children’s capabilities and the ethical hurdles for child and adult researchers. This article argues therefore for a more dynamic, meaningful and realistic model of participation, that speaks to the messy realities of becoming and being a child-researcher. In other words, the article questions the dominant orthodoxy of children as researchers as the ‘gold standard’ of participatory research with children.
Keywords: children; ethics; participation; research