The Web Provides Hits, But Many Misses, for SIDS Safety Tips
A new study highlights the risk of medical misinformation dispensed by "Dr. Google"
What parent hasn’t turned to “Dr. Google” for a quick answer to a question about their baby? But when it comes to finding accurate information, especially when researching such critical topics as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), search engine results seem to give new life to the old adage, “Don’t believe everything you read.”
Case in point? In October 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a new set of infant sleep safety recommendations aimed at decreasing SIDS risk . However, if you search “infant sleep safety”or other common SIDS- and sleep safety-related terms in just a year later, AAP guidelines don’t always come out on top, according to a new study from SIDS researcher and pediatrician Rachel Y. Moon and colleagues. And what does, says researchers, are too many search engine results that reflect out-of-date and, in some cases, highly inaccurate information.
To see what parents are finding when they search, researchers came up with 13 key phrases that reflect specific AAP recommendations for infant sleep safety, including “infant co-sleeping,”"infant cigarette smoking,” “infant sleep position,” “infant sleep surface,” “pacifier infant,” and “infant home monitor.” Each phrase was then entered in the top 100 most popular search engine websites (a total of 1300 searches).
Among the results? Only 44 percent of web pages turned up by search engines provided accurate information, 28 percent provided inaccurate information, and another 28 percent provided information that was not relevant to infant sleep safety. The key search phrases with the highest percentage of accurate information were “infant cigarette smoking,” “infant sleep position,” and “infant sleep surface.” Those with the highest percentage of inaccurate information were “pacifier infant,” “infant home monitor,” and “infant co-sleeping.”
The type of website also mattered. Government and .org sites had the highest percentage of accurate information (80 percent and 73 percent, respectively). Blogs and websites maintained by individuals had the highest percentage of inaccurate information (approximately 37 percent contained inaccuracies). Even news websites were accurate only half of the time.
“The vast majority of misinformation I see regarding sleep safety and SIDS risk is that of co-sleeping,” Edward Kulich, MD, pediatric sleep consultant and author of The Best Baby Sleep Book, tells BabyZone about what he finds in his own searches. “There are numerous proponents of co-sleeping, and many have found a voice on the Internet. Co-sleeping has been proven to provide an unacceptably high risk factor for SIDS.”
Kulich also finds that certain products, such as crib bumpers and infant positioners, which the AAP recommends against, also come up frequently in sleep safety-related web searches.
But the web isn’t all bad. Kulich finds that many of the parents he works with are incredibly savvy about infant sleep thanks to the… internet!
As he relates, “Just today, I had a parent email me a quote from a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and ask me to comment! Internet health information is at the tip of every parent’s fingertips, especially in the age of smartphones.”
The bottom line? Surf wisely!
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