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Four out of five teens use Internet for health information

Even with the Internet, study shows teens still trust their parents far more than they trust what they find online.

By
Stephen Feller
More than four out of five teenagers gathers health information on the Internet, though they also rely very heavily on parents for health guidance. Photo by Potstock/Shutterstock
More than four out of five teenagers gathers health information on the Internet, though they also rely very heavily on parents for health guidance. Photo by Potstock/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, June 2 (UPI) -- Most teenagers, 84 percent of them, get health information from the Internet, according to a new survey.

Despite turning to the Internet and smartphone apps for health information in such large numbers, teenagers told researchers that their parents are still where they go the most for information.

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Although more than four out of five teenagers get health information from the Internet, only 25 percent have gotten "a lot" of information online. The source for "a lot" of information, by far, is parents, to whom 55 percent of teenagers go, followed by 32 percent relying on health classes, and 29 percent going to doctors and nurses.

The Northwestern University study included 1,156 U.S. teens between the ages of 13 and 18 and sought to discover the ways the "always connected" millennial generation gathers information while dealing with the range of health concerns they face, according to the research presented June 2 at a Washington, D.C., conference held by Northwestern University's Center on Media and Human Development.

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"It shows that teenagers can be independent and empowered actors in taking care of their own health," Vicky Rideout, a media and health researcher who designed the survey, told the New York Times.

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Teens reported researching everything from random pains and healthy ways to work out at the gym to depression and anxiety, however the research shows they're also unsure of some of the online sources they find -- only 24 percent said they were very satisfied with search results. Parents, doctors and nurses, and health classes were far more trusted, the study showed.

"Half the teens who use search engines to look for health information say they usually just click on the first site that comes up," Ellen Wartella, a communications professor at Northwestern University, told Live Science. "We need to focus on improving their digital literacy skills so that they can sort through the abundance of information they come across online."

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The report is available from Northwestern University.

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