A new study finds that teenagers are going straight to the Internet for any health concerns they have. The study, presented Tuesday by Northwestern University, indicates that an astounding 84% of teens use the Internet for any new and potentially confusing health concerns.
However, the study also notes that the Internet still ranks fourth on the list of where teens get most of their health information. According to the study, 55% get most of their health information from their parents, 32% from health class in school, 29% from health care professionals, and 25% from the Internet. The study surveyed 1,200 American teenagers between late 2014 and early 2015.
Of course, even if the Internet isn’t the primary source of information for health issues, 58% of teens said their first step was to look up a topic on Google, and as previously mentioned, 84% of them did use the Internet to learn some information. Experts warn that teens acting on information they find online can end up doing more harm than good.
The source of information is critical for teens finding information on the Internet, as not everything they may find is accurate and not all sources are credible. However, teens may be more conscientious than we think, as 37% said they trusted “.edu” sites, as opposed to 14% who trusted “.com” sites. Perhaps more importantly, a mere 10% said they gathered a significant amount of health information from social networking sites.
According to the study, roughly one-third of teens altered their behavior in a positive manner based on information they learned online. Some tried to cut back on soda, others found healthier recipes, and 21% even downloaded a mobile health app.
The study’s lead writer, Ellen Wartella, was most surprised by the fact that teens were using the Internet to take positive steps with regard to their health. Wartella says that this finding reiterates how important accuracy is on the Internet, since it is obviously influencing the behavior of our nation’s teenagers.