Citation: Freeman JL, Caldwell PHY & Scott KM. The role of trust when adolescents search for and appraise online health information: a systematic review. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2020: 221: 215-223.e5



Objective: To assess the role of trust when adolescents search for and appraise online health information.

Study design: A systematic search of online databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and ERIC) was performed. Google Scholar and reference lists for included studies were manually searched for additional articles. Studies were included if they examined the role of trust when adolescents (in the 13- to 18-year-old age range) searched for and/or appraised online health information. Findings were synthesized using thematic analysis.

Results: There were 22 studies that met the inclusion criteria. Four key themes were identified: adolescents generally distrust the Internet but use it anyway (subthemes were why adolescents distrust online health information; why adolescents still use online health information), adolescents use heuristics to appraise the trustworthiness of online health information (subthemes were different heuristics used by different adolescents, range of heuristics used by adolescents), adolescents trust websites more than social media or social networking sites, and adolescents' level of trust in online health information guides their actions and responses.

Conclusions: Adolescents often distrust health information from the Internet, but continue to use it. Adolescents are aware of the need to evaluate the trustworthiness of online health information; however, their approaches vary in sophistication. As the reach and content of the Internet expands, it is important to equip adolescents with effective eHealth literacy to assess the trustworthiness of online health information.

About The Authors

  Associate Professor  

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