Parents stay offline when child has cancer

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Parents want information from a trusted healthcare provider rather than from the Internet when their son or daughter is being diagnosed with cancer, indicate the results of a recent study.           

Access to medically related cancer information through the Internet was deemed untrustworthy and frightening in a project by Elizabeth Gage, PhD, of the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Public Health and Health Professions in Buffalo, New York, and UB sociology graduate student Christina Panagakis. As Gage and Panagakis described in Sociology of Health & Illness (2012;34[3]:444-458), they administered surveys to and conducted in-depth interviews with 41 parents of pediatric patients to examine how these adults evaluate, access, and use the Internet to gather information related to their child's cancer.

The investigators learned that most parents did not turn to the Internet for health information, but many did use it to connect with sources of social support throughout their child's illness.

Parents gave several reasons for avoiding the Internet when their child was diagnosed with cancer, such as:

  • Being afraid of what they might find out
  • Being uncertain about the accuracy of information found online
  • Not wanting to become overloaded with information
  • Following the advice of oncologists to avoid going online for information
  • Being unable to access the Internet.

“Perhaps because of the severity of the diagnosis, parents and caregivers preferred to receive their information from sources other than the Internet,” commented Gage in a statement announcing the study results.

Participants who did use the Internet to obtain information tended to limit their searches to what they believed to be the more credible sources, such as medical journals and hospital libraries.

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