Paging Dr. Google: A New Tool for Parents

For parents, thinking about their child’s disease rarely stops at the clinic. In fact, most parents of children with Type 1 diabetes use information online to gain knowledge of their child’s disease, the results of a small new UF study suggest.

The study examined for the first time how much parents of children with Type 1 diabetes rely on Internet information, including social media sources, to obtain child health information and learn more about the disease.

The investigation revealed that the majority of parents — over 60 percent surveyed — use online information sites. Nearly 50 percent of total respondents reported social media as their primary source for obtaining informationspending two hours on average per week.

The survey also showed that having access to online information is not a problem for most parents. Nearly all cited having access to the internet on their home computer or cell phone.

The study was published online February 3 in Diabetes Care by Amanda Balkhi, M.S., a doctoral candidate the UF Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, and colleagues. 

“This study is important as it pertains to the quality of information parents expect to find online,” said Gary Geffken, Ph.D., chief of medical psychology and co-author on the study.

He added: “The study’s findings can better establish how much online health information can affect parents’ care of their children, and may work to improve accuracy of information found online.”

Related: Type 1 diabetes parents turn to the Internet for support

Earlier in 2014, UF researchers examined use of online social forums devoted to Type 1 diabetes information, which run the gamut from accurate and helpful to well-meaning but inadequate. They found that nearly 40 percent of parents reported social support as the biggest benefit of these forums, while 31 percent cited the knowledge they gained there as the primary reason they used the forums and 22 percent of parents cited a mix of support and knowledge as draws to the forums.