Image by Marco Wolff from Pixabay

Authors: Kelsey A McKinnon, Patrina H Y Caldwell, Karen M Scott

Aim

Adolescents increasingly use smartphones to look up online health information. This pilot study aimed to explore the search and assessment strategies of adolescents looking for online health information.

Methods

We performed an observed, practical task on mobile devices, followed by a semi‐structured interview with adolescent patients at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney. Observational data were analysed using an observation rubric, and interviews were transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed through inductive thematic analysis using line‐by‐line coding and the constant comparative process.

Results

The research was undertaken with 10 participants. Three themes were identified: (i) participants' searching strategies to find online health information; (ii) techniques for assessing relevance; and (iii) techniques for assessing credibility. These themes demonstrated that most participants accessed online health information due to its ease and accessibility but failed to assess credibility. Most prioritised relevance of information over credibility, determined by their personal knowledge and experience. Our results indicate that there was a large discrepancy between adolescents' ability to search for and assess online health information and their perceived ability. This demonstrates a discrepancy between perceived and performance‐based eHealth literacy and highlights poor critical self‐awareness, which can prevent adolescents from seeking help. This may underlie the biggest challenge in adolescents' access of online health information and highlights the need for education.

Conclusions

Many adolescents' search and appraisal ability is negatively impacted by low eHealth literacy. These adolescents' inability to recognise their need for assistance in improving their search and assessment strategies highlights the need for multi‐stage education.

Associate Professor Karen Scott

Associate Professor Karen Scott is Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. She works as an educ...