A pediatric surgery study: parent usage of the Internet for medical information

J Pediatr Surg. 2003 Apr;38(4):560-4. doi: 10.1053/jpsu.2003.50122.


Purpose: The goal of this study was to (1) determine parents access to and use of the Internet for information relating to their child's health; (2) investigate parents methods of searching for such information; and (3) evaluate the information found in relation to its readability, accuracy, and influence.

Methods: A study was conducted of 150 parents of outpatients in the Pediatric Surgery Clinic of a local Children's Hospital. Parents completed study surveys over a 6-week time frame.

Results: All parents (150 of 150, 100%) completed the surveys. The median age of the parents was 35 years, 83% (124 of 150) were mothers, and most (32%) attained a high school diploma. Of the 128 parents having Internet access, 71% used the Internet to search for health-related information. A majority of parents, 98%, agreed or somewhat agreed that the information they found was comprehensible and helpful. All respondents at least somewhat trusted information found, and 52% were at least somewhat influenced by online information when making a medical decision.

Conclusions: Many parents use the Internet for additional medical information, but they do not access this information frequently. The overwhelmingly positive impression of online health information suggests parents are unaware of the dangers of encountering misleading sources, an issue of special concern when considering the amount of influence this information carries. A movement must be made to create uniform guidelines for health information on the Internet. In the meantime, pediatric surgeons must take a role in guiding parents toward accurate online sources and becoming more Internet proficient themselves.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Outpatients
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Quackery
  • Surgery Department, Hospital
  • Trust