When I first read that more parents are going online after their kids get sick, I had thoughts of hundreds of graduates of Google University picking fights with the med. school grads trying to take care of their kids.
Good news: that’s not what this story is about.
Not that parents can’t find some good quality health information online. But there’s enough fearmongering and misinformation online to make you never trust an MD again.
But a recent post over at the U.S. News and World Report parenting blog by Nancy Shute pointed to a phenomena that’s been widely used, and yet widely overlooked: the online patient support group. Especially important for parents who don’t want to leave their kids’ hospital bedsides or have little time for nighttime support group meetings (and no money for a sitter when it’s all going to the medical bills), online support groups offer not only a (virtual) shoulder to cry on but a go-to source for navigating the net full of all that fearmongering and misinformation.
They’ve read most of it and dissected it already. Plus, they’ve been where you are right now, and they can help you get to where they are. As Shute points out, they’ve also got a stake in finding the answers you want. Your doctors may be fantastic and incredibly intelligent, but they simply don’t have the same kind of time to devote to your incessant quest for knowledge.
And online, we very often can find it – and in ways that we couldn’t in our hometowns. Where there might be 100 kids with food allergies at your kid’s elementary school, there are hundreds of thousands of parents dealing with them over at Kids With Food Allergies. Where only one in four thousand kids is born with cystic fibrosis across the entire U.S., hundreds of their moms and dads are blogging at CysticFibrosis.com.
Of course, you can’t trust it all - read any blog (even Strollerderby), and there’s a tendency for parents to post medical advice (here they leave it in comments), and for other parents to say, “oh, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that, I’ll have to do that.” Where people are quicker to discount the spoken word, a possible loon in an in-the-flesh support group, something about seeing the words written on a computer screen makes parents (people in general really) more trusting.
Would you prefer an in-the-flesh support group or are you all about online?