Viviana’s 7-year-old son, Jayden, is having problems concentrating in school. Viviana receives daily calls from Jayden’s teacher about his behavior in the classroom such as that he can’t sit still and is constantly out of his seat. Viviana’s parents assure her that Jayden will grow out of it, but she and her husband have noticed his behaviors and grades getting worse with each passing school year. She finds conflicting information online with some websites suggesting that he has ADHD, and others suggesting a sensory integration disorder. Also, some websites suggest medication while others suggest allowing Jayden to move more in the classroom. Which information is accurate?
Written by: Mileini Campez and Ileana Pacheco-Colón
Mental health information is readily available online, yet this information may come from unreliable sources masquerading as scientific facts. This leaves parents like Viviana confused as to how to best help their child. Below you will find a few questions to ask yourself when evaluating whether or not information is credible.
1. Whose website is it?
As a general rule, you can trust websites that end in “.gov”, “.edu”, and “.org”. Keep in mind that some websites may be personal blogs and state opinions rather than facts. Additionally, watch out for satirical news websites whose names are similar to those of legitimate news websites yet do not present truthful information. If you’re still unsure, check their “About US” section.
2. Who wrote the article?
The article will typically include a short biography of the author, which you can then use to verify that the author has sufficient experience to accurately report on the subject. If an organization is listed as the author, consider whether that organization is one of the better-known organizations on the topic.
3. Does the author quote professionals or experts?
If the author is not well-versed on the topic, they may seek out professionals in the field to discuss their work and lend credibility to an article. The credentials of these professionals can also be investigated to verify that they have sufficient expertise.
4. Does it include references to the original scientific findings?
If the article talks about specific research studies, you may want to look them up. You may not be able to gain access to the entire original study or understand the dense scientific language. However, you can verify that the article in question exists and maybe even read a short summary of it.
5. Can I find this information in other places?
Typically, information that has been validated will be reported on multiple websites. A quick internet search on the recommendations that the website puts forth may shed light on whether it is a commonly accepted solution.
6. How does this information make me feel?
Always gauge your emotional reaction after reading an article. Heavily biased articles can leave readers feeling upset or angry. Alternatively, if the information sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Legitimate articles about mental health rarely use emotionally-charged language or punctuation like exclamation marks.
7. How did you come across this information?
Was it an advertisement on a website? Were you searching for information to support your point of view? Since the way in which you arrive at an article can be biased, to begin with, considering how you found the information can be important. Articles arrived at through neutral search terms and not through advertisements are likely most reliable.
8. What does my doctor or therapist say?
When in doubt, ask a trusted professional. The amount of information on any one topic may at times be overwhelming or confusing. Before implementing a potentially risky solution, discuss it with your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional.