Your child’s health and the internet

When you have questions about your health, where do you go first? Many of us go to the internet. We know there are all kinds of things we could find there – good and bad. But there are ways to figure out what information you can trust and what is not trustworthy.

Who Needs a Librarian Sign by The Daring Librarian CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Does it come from a health website or organization? Does the website look professional or does it have a lot of advertisements and outrageous statements like “get thin fast!”

Also we have some experience under our belts – with our own health, with the health of family and friends, and experience receiving healthcare and talking with health professionals. That experience helps us take the information “Dr. Google” might provide with a grain of salt!

One thing to remember about your young person is they also will have questions about their health. And its likely they’ll also go to the internet first. But they don’t have what you have: an idea of how to interpret what you are reading and experience with getting healthcare.

Something you might talk to them about is how to use the internet to get health information in a smart way. Try it out:

  1. Think of a question they might have like, “eating healthy for teens” and see what you find on an internet search.
  2. Go through the websites and think through some questions about them which have been shown to be related to people’s satisfaction with the quality of health websites:
    • Does the site tell you what it is about and who might find it useful?
      • If yes, do you think it gives the information it aims to provide?
    • Does the site deal with important questions you want to know more about? or give realistic advice?
    • Does the site give evidence for the information it gives (like a research study or a health professional’s opinion)?
    • Is there a list of references (like you’d see at the end of a wikipedia article)?
    • Does it give dates for when the information was produced (like dates of the main sources it uses for the article)?
    • Is it balanced? (does it seem like someone only wrote their own personal story and that’s it? does it give both sides of the story? does it talk about multiple treatment choices?)
    • Does it give links for other resources that can help give more information?
    • Does it say there is a 100% success rate with one kind of treatment? (that is almost never true in medicine – be cautious if the website makes strong statements like this)
    • Does it talk about how each treatment works?
    • Does it talk about the benefits of each treatment? (like getting rid of symptoms)
    • Does it talk about the risks of each treatment? (like side effects)
    • Does it talk about what would happen – like risks and benefits – of doing nothing?
    • Does it talk about how treatments can effect your quality of life? (your day-to-day activity, things that are important to you)
    • Is it clear that there are multiple treatment options or ways you could go?
    • Does it suggest you talk to your family, friends, and health professionals?

Let us know if you tried this out! How did it work for you?

Image Source: Who Needs a Librarian Sign by The Daring Librarian CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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