Notes from a Nurse
Kristen Millican, RN, BSN
Cleveland County Health Department
In a world of overwhelming internet advice,
here are 8 things parents should know
The Washington Post
There is one skill that is essential for new moms and
dads today: being skeptical and science-savvy about what you read on the Internet. The Internet will give you unlimited advice and information. The problem is it's a messy mix of opinions and parenting philosophy. Much of it is conflicting, and only some of it is accurate. It's often accompanied by a bit of judgment. The key to using the Internet is to sort out evidence-based information from the rest. If you want to understand why newborns get vitamin K at birth or how we know the recommended immunization schedule is safe and effective, you do not want answers from random people on the Internet. What you need is careful, objective and repeatable science. Not anecdotes or old wives' tales, but data.
1. Select Web sites carefully. Start with sites from universities, medical organizations, children's hospitals and governmental organizations. These will give you evidence-based information. If websites are selling you dietary supplements or a fishy conspiracy theory, these are not reliable sources for health information
2. Scrutinize credentials. If you're reading a blog or news article, realize you're trusting an individual to interpret the science. Make sure that person has advanced training in science, seeks input from experts or has a record of careful analysis.
3. Look for peer-reviewed science. An online article about scientific research should provide citations or links to peer-reviewed journal articles so you can check them.
4. Be skeptical. Was this scientific study conducted in petri dishes, in mice or in humans? If humans, how many were included, and was it a population similar to you? Does this study show one factor causes another, or is it showing a correlation? Can you think of other factors that could affect that relationship?
5. Look for scientific consensus. One study is never that useful on its own. A critical part of the scientific process is replication. Scientific knowledge is built slowly, over time, through studies conducted by different researchers in different populations. That's why we can feel pretty certain about it.
6. Don't assume something natural is better. This is a common assumption of parenting blogs, building on our deep desire to keep our children safe. But the natural world is full of deadly toxins, and just because something is natural doesn't make it safe. Coconut oil may be natural, but that doesn't mean it makes a good sunscreen. Measles is a natural virus, but the vaccine is far safer than getting hit with the infection.
7. Question your own assumptions. It's human to seek information that confirms our beliefs rather than challenges them. Check yourself by searching for contrary information.
8. Know that no Web site can be a substitute for a healthcare provider. If you think your child is really sick, don't bring her symptoms to Facebook. Get real medical care.
Read the full article here.