In 2010, a whopping 59% of people in the United Sates turned to the internet for information regarding health, parents were among the top users searching for information regarding the health of their kids. Recommendations for infant sleep safety were published in 2011 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in order to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), strangulation, suffocation, and other accidental deaths during sleep. However, new research, scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that Google internet searches do not contain the best information related to infant sleep safety and do no reflect AAP recommendations.
Rachel Y. Moon, MD, pediatrician and SIDS researcher at Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC, said:
“It is important for health care providers to realize the extent to which parents may turn to the internet for information about infant sleep safety and then act on that advice, regardless of the reliability of the source.”
Seventy-two percent of adults believed that most or all of the information regarding health issues on the internet was trustworthy, and 70% of adults said that they used that information on their actions hoping to improve their health or their child’s health.
Using the top search engine in the United States, Google, Dr. Moon and colleagues, from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, examined how accurate the information regarding sleep safety was on the internet. The team used 13 key phrases that best reflected the AAP recommendations for infant sleep safety, and closely analyzed the first 100 search engine websites for each phrase (a total of 1300 websites).
After examining the 1300 websites, results showed:
- 43.5% contained accurate information
- 28.1% contained inaccurate information
- 28.4% contained information that was irrelevant to infant sleep safety
- 60.8% contained accurate information when the websites that were not relevant were excluded
The key search phrases with the highest percentage of accurate information were “infant cigarette smoking,” “infant sleep surface,” and “infant sleep position.” Those with the highest percentage of inaccurate information were “pacifier infant,” “infant home monitor,” and “infant co-sleeping.”
Company/interest groups, education websites, and retail product reviews were the most common types of websites found when using the key search phrases. The highest percentage of accurate information was found on organizational and government websites (72.5% and 80.1% respectively). The highest percentage of inaccurate information was found on retail product reviews, blogs, and individuals’ websites. (36.2%, 30.9%, and 45.5%). News websites were accurate just one-half of the time.
According to the authors, healthcare providers should give parents an up-to-date list of websites that accurately reflect AAP recommendations on infant sleep safety.
Dr. Moon suggests these websites if you are currently seeking information on infant sleep safety: Health Finder (www.healthfinder.gov), Medline Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus), and Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch/HONcode).
Government and other websites should review and update their information on infant sleep safety, checking for accuracy and currency to provide accurate information to parents and caregivers.
Written by Sarah Glynn