My Virtual Neighbors. Or, the Value of Online Media in Kids’ Health
Sometimes what I’m reading and what crops up in the Asthma Mom comments collide, and art imitates life or life imitates art, I don’t know which.
I love that.
In the early 2000′s, I had one healthy baby and one preschooler with asthma that we couldn’t get under control. To give you an idea, I describe her as a “preschooler” because of her age, not because her health actually permitted her to attend preschool. Since blogs didn’t permeate the Internet then the way they do now, I used to read about asthma on messageboards and ask the other members questions about my daughter’s health all the time.
Those wonderful messageboard parents taught me
– To request a peak-flow meter, allergy testing, and a referral to a pediatric pulmonologist.
– To do my research so I could ask the right questions in the doctor’s office.
– To learn about dust mites and the importance of covering my daughter’s mattress and pillow.
That last bit of advice helped my kid sleep through the night and freed us from the 2:00 am coughing fits more than anything else.
The Internet changed our lives.
Participating in messageboards felt like having thousands of neighbors with asthma children themselves, unlike my actual neighbors in real life. And every week, I see so many of you doing the same thing for one another here.
Now check out this article on BBC News, Internet child health advice ‘wrong.’ The research within advises UK parents to ask healthcare professionals and visit “governmental or other pre-approved websites” for information first, rather than rely on Internet searches that pull up inaccurate kids’ health information.
– In the US, parents head to the Web in the first place because doctors don’t have time for the detailed, lengthy discussions and brainstorm sessions that blogs and social networks offer.
– Going to vetted sites for medical information makes sense, but so does heading to Internet communities for emotional support, non-medical tips, and suggestions.
– You can find accurate information on children’s health sites, but you have to be picky. Look for disclaimers (see right sidebar), online “honor codes” (again, right sidebar), and links to established medical sites that back up the author’s own musings.
(ETA: Well, usually they’re in that sidebar. We’re in the middle of a redesign this week, and I have no idea where they went at the moment. Don’t worry! They’re here somewhere and will reappear when the redesign’s done.)
(ETA, again: HA! Found them.)
Consider this passage from new Pew research on adults with chronic conditions and Internet usage:
And yet, those who are online have a trump card. They have each other. This survey finds that having a chronic disease increases the probability that an internet user will share what they know and learn from their peers. They unearth nuggets of information. They blog. They participate in online discussions. And they just keep going.