Children's accounts of an event can sometimes be the only evidence to a crime, so a trained forensic interviewer is crucial to obtain the highest quality of information from the child. However, trained interviewers may not be available in isolated communities, so the use of tele-forensic (online) interviewing has been considered. Currently, there is limited research on how the online environment, and the heightened distractions that accompany it, may impact a child's recall. This study aims to help fill that gap. The physical background of the interviewer was manipulated to be simple, or complex, and the child could either see their own video feed, or it was hidden. For this study, 107 children between the ages of 9 and 11-years-old were recruited to take part in a tele-forensic interview about a witnessed science video. We hypothesized that distractions in the background of the interviewer during a tele-forensic interview would decrease recall accuracy and completeness. Further, allowing the child to view their own video feed may act as a distraction, however, having the child view their own face during recall may also increase disclosure rate of a transgression. The results showed evidence that children interviewed with a complex background were more accurate than children interviewed with a simple background, and that children who could see their own face were faster at disclosing a transgression. Thus, tele-forensic guidelines may need to be updated. This was the first study to provide empirical evidence for how to best set up a tele-forensic interview and is a good starting place for future research. Effective use of tele-forensic interviews will provide children in isolated communities with better access to justice.
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Thesis advisor: Connolly, Deborah
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