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Face it. We're all
curious (and highly suspicious) about what our teens are using the Internet for. Personally, my biggest
fears are porn, drug recipes from "Breaking Bad" and some sort of portal where they could link
my credit card to their Forever 21 account. But I'm a little relieved to see
that current research is showing that more
teens are using the Internet to improve their health habits. Who knew?
According to a new study by
Northwestern University, almost one-third of teens are using online resources
to seek out information about health-related issues like dealing with
depression, eating healthier and cutting back on their soda intake. Because
there's only so much Mountain Dew you can drink before you stop and say to
yourself, "Hmmm, this looks like anti-freeze and might be destroying my
For every factual, well-balanced article about the importance of sleep for teens, there are those that claim that tampons contain asbestos or that lipgloss causes cancer.
The national study—the
first of its kind in more than a decade—also brings up the importance of
making sure that the resources our teens are turning to are legitimate and the
information they are finding is accurate. For every factual, well-balanced
article about the importance of sleep for teens, there are those that claim that tampons contain
asbestos or that lipgloss
causes cancer. I even remember
hearing one crazy rumor that eating red licorice could make you smarter, which
is ridiculous since everyone knows only drinking more coffee can do that.
But the report also
highlights the importance of good old-fashioned human interaction when it comes
to making sure your teens have the right information. The Washington Post
points out that teens still look to their parents first when they have health
concerns, followed by doctors and nurses:
"Parents remain by far the
leading source of health information, with 55 percent of teens surveyed saying
they got 'a lot' of health information from parents, followed by health classes
in school and doctors and nurses. But the Internet is the fourth-largest source
of health information, far outstripping all other media, such as books,
television news, radio, and newspaper and magazine articles. Eighty-four
percent of teens said they turned to the Internet for health information."
Even more reassuring: A very
small number of teens—13 percent—indicated that they couldn't talk to their
parents about health concerns and needed to turn to the Internet to find
As for which health topics
teens are specifically looking for, it breaks down like this:
Fitness and exercise (42
Diet and nutrition (36
Stress or anxiety (19
diseases (18 percent)
Puberty (18 percent)
Depression or other mental
health issues (16 percent)
Another important thing the
study reminds us to educate our teens about is the difference between factual
content and advertising. Half of the teens surveyed said they click on the
first link that comes up, which is usually a sponsored link. I'm going to keep this in mind, since while I really
enjoy a good hot dog now and then, I certainly don't want Oscar Meyer doling
out healthy eating advice to my kid.
The bottom line is, amidst
all of our concerns that our teens are only using the Internet for evil, it can
also be a great resource for them to seek out answers to some issues that
are part of their world. So the next time they're ignoring you and burying
their face in their phone, relax—they might just be looking for kale recipes.