Accuracy of online discussion forums on common childhood ailments
Keywords:Consumer Health Information, Electronic Discussion Groups, Evidence-Based Medicine, Child Health
Objectives: The research sought to determine if the health advice provided in online discussion forms aimed at parents of young children is accurate and in agreement with evidence found in evidence-based resources and to discover whether or not these forums are an avenue for misinformation.
Methods: To determine which online forums to use, Google was searched using five common childhood ailments. Forums that appeared five or more times in the first five pages of the Google search for each question were considered. Of these forums, those that met the inclusion criteria were used. Data from a six-month time period was collected and categorized from the discussion forums to analyze the advice being provided about common childhood ailments. Evidence-based resources were used to analyze the accuracy of the advice provided.
Results: Two discussion forums were chosen for analysis. Seventy-four questions from one and 131 questions from the other were health related. Data were not analyzed together. Of the health-related questions on the 2 forums, 65.5% and 51.8%, respectively, provided some type of advice. Of the advice provided, 54.1% and 47.2%, respectively, agreed with the evidence provided in evidence-based resources. A further 16.2% and 6.3% was refuted or was somewhat refuted by the evidence found in evidence-based resources.Conclusion: While roughly half of the health-related advice provided in online discussion forums aimed at parents of young children is accurate, only a small portion of the advice is incorrect; therefore, these sources are not a major concern for the spread of misinformation.
Sebelefsky C, Karner D, Voitl J, Klein F, Voitl P, Böck A. Internet health seeking behaviour of parents attending a general paediatric outpatient clinic: a cross-sectional observational study. J Telemed Telecare. 2015 May 29;21(7):400–7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1357633X15583431.
Moseley KL, Freed GL, Goold SD. Which sources of child health advice do parents follow? Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2011 Sep 13;50(1):50–6. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0009922810379905.
Pew Internet Project. The social life of health information [Internet]. Pew Research Center; 2014 [cited 6 Feb 2018]. <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/15/The-Social-Life-of-Health-Information/>
Hamm MP, Shulhan J, Williams G, Milne A, Scott SD, Hartling L. A systematic review of the use and effectiveness of social media in child health. BMC Pediatr. 2014 Jun 2;14:138. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2431-14-138.
Criss S, Woo Baidal JA, Goldman RE, Perkins M, Cunningham C, Taveras EM. The role of health information sources in decision-making among Hispanic mothers during their children’s first 1000 days of life. Matern Child Health J. 2015 Nov;19(11):2536–43. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10995-015-1774-2.
Doyle E. Seeking advice about children’s health in an online parenting forum. Med Sociol Online. 2013 Oct;7(3):17–27.
Appleton J, Fowler C, Brown N. Friend or foe? an exploratory study of Australian parents’ use of asynchronous discussion boards in childhood obesity. Collegian. 2014 Jun;21(2):151–8. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.colegn.2014.02.005.
Balkhi AM, Reid AM, McNamara JPH, Geffken GR. The diabetes online community: the importance of forum use in parents of children with type 1 diabetes. Pediatr Diabetes. 2014 Sep;15(6):408–15. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pedi.12110.
Bernhardt JM, Felter EM. Online pediatric information seeking among mothers of young children: results from a qualitative study using focus groups. J Med Internet Res. 2004 Mar 1;6(1): e7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/jmir.6.1.e7.
Henderson EM, Rosser BA, Keogh E, Eccleston C. Internet sites offering adolescents help with headache, abdominal pain, and dysmenorrhoea: a description of content, quality, and peer interactions. J Pediatr Psychol. 2012 Apr;37(3):262–71. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/jsr100.
Cole J, Watkins C, Kleine D. Health advice from Internet discussion forums: how bad is dangerous? J Med Internet Res. 2016 Jan 6;18(1):e4. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/jmir.5051.
Hoffman-Goetz L, Donelle L, Thomson MD. Clinical guidelines about diabetes and the accuracy of peer information in an unmoderated online health forum for retired persons. Inform Health Soc Care. 2009 Aug;34(2):91–9. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17538150902865136.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Tri-council policy statement: ethical conduct for research involving humans [Internet]. TCPS 2. Ottawa, ON, Canada: Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research; 1998 [rev. Dec 2014; cited 22 Sep 2017]. <http://www.pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/policy-politique/initiatives/tcps2-eptc2/Default/>.
Radcliff C. What are the top 10 most popular search engines? [Internet]. Search Engine Watch; 8 Aug 2016 [cited 6 Feb 2018]. <https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/08/08/what-are-the-top-10-most-popular-search-engines/>.
Lee J. No. 1 position in Google gets 33% of search traffic [Internet]. Search Engine Watch; 20 Jun 2013 [cited 6 Feb 2018]. <https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/study/2276184/no-1-position-in-google-gets-33-of-search-traffic-study>.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.