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UK and US adolescents perceived internet health information to be salient but of questionable credibility

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Q How do adolescents in the US and UK use and perceive the internet as a source of health information?

DESIGN

Qualitative study using single sex focus groups.

SETTING

7 secondary schools and sixth form colleges in the UK and 3 public and 2 private middle/high schools in the US.

PARTICIPANTS

157 English speaking students (11–19 y) in 26 focus groups (15 in the UK and 11 in the US).

METHODS

Data were collected from 30–60 minute focus group discussions that explored perceptions of accessing and using online health information. Discussions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Emergent themes regarding previous experience, saliency, and credibility of the information and source were identified iteratively.

MAIN FINDINGS

Experience using the internet. Most adolescents had actively sought health information online and said that the internet gave them access to information beyond their normal life experience. Students said that the internet was an important source of information that fit comfortably into the context of their lives (eg, “My computer’s right next to my TV so I just do both at the same time!”). Use of the internet as a combined communication, entertainment, and information …

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