Health News

Teens Trust Parents With Health Questions More Than The Internet

Teen Health Survey

Four out of five teenagers turn to the Internet for health information, but they don’t always put much stock in what they find, according to a national survey released last month.

Instead, the source the kids really trust with questions about health is their parents, according to the new report called “Teens, Health and Technology.”

The report, which was prepared by researchers at Northwestern University, suggests some online health content is neither relevant to teenagers nor easily found by them. While public health officials often assume that adolescents are easily reached via social media, the researchers found that these efforts do not necessarily resonate with the intended audience.

Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern’s Center on Media and Human Development, which released the report, was quoted in a blog on the NY Times as having said that “teenagers want to be more private and don’t want others to know what they’re searching about”.

The study found 55 percent of American teenagers claim to get “a lot” of health information from parents, 32 percent from health classes at school and 29 percent from medical providers. Overall, the Internet ranks fourth as a source, coming in at just 25 percent.

“The teenage years are … a time when young people grapple with a tangle of health concerns, many uniquely important during these particular years of life,” states the first-of-its-kind Northwestern University study. “From puberty, hygiene and childhood obesity in the early years, to sexual activity, drugs and alcohol in the later years, teens must traverse a landscape replete with significant new health challenges — often while coping with substantial amounts of stress and sleep deprivation.”

The teenage years are … a time when young people grapple with a tangle of health concerns, many uniquely important during these particular years of life (…) From puberty, hygiene and childhood obesity in the early years, to sexual activity, drugs and alcohol in the later years, teens must traverse a landscape replete with significant new health challenges — often while coping with substantial amounts of stress and sleep deprivation.

Vickie Rideout, a co-author of the study and president of VJR Consulting, a firm specializing in research pertaining to youth and media, was quoted by CNN in a report as having said that she was surprised to find that just 13 percent of the teens surveyed said they had turned to the Internet to research topics they were uncomfortable discussing with their parents, as she thought that was exactly what they’d be doing.

They’re doing additional research and — in some cases — are actually going online to find information to help their parents out [with a medical question or concern].

The survey also highlighted what it called a “health divide” between lower- and higher-income teenagers.

At least half of lower-income teenagers had family members who had significant health problems in the previous year, compared to about a quarter of higher-income teens. But the poorer teenagers were far less likely to own devices for researching these problems: 44 percent had smartphones, compared with 69 percent of the wealthier teenagers.

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