Searching Google For Infant Sleep Safety Information Doesn't Always Yield Accurate Results

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Not everything on the Internet is true.

A new study shows that just over half of websites from Google searches for infant sleep safety actually reflect the official recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"It is important for health care providers to realize the extent to which parents may turn to the Internet for information about infant sleep safety and then act on that advice, regardless of the reliability of the source," study researcher Dr. Rachel Y. Moon, M.D., a pediatrician and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) researcher at the Children's National Medical Center, said in a statement.

The Journal of Pediatrics study included Google searches for infant sleep safety (like how to reduce the risk of SIDS, how to avoid infant sleeping accidents, and the like). The Google searches brought up a total of 1,300 websites.

Of those searches, 28.4 percent of the results were irrelevant, 43.5 percent of the results actually had correct information and 28.1 percent had incorrect information. After taking out the irrelevant search results, the percentage of results containing correct information grew to 60.8 percent.

The researchers found that some search phrases elicited more accurate search results than others. For example, searching for "infant cigarette smoking" and "infant sleep position" prompted the most accurate results, while searching for "pacifier infant" and "infant co-sleeping" prompted the fewest accurate results.

Not surprisingly, Internet users are most likely to find accurate information on infant sleep safety on government websites -- where 80.1 percent of the information was correct in the study -- or organization websites -- where 72.5 percent of the information was correct.

On the other end of the spectrum, individual websites, blogs and websites where people could review products were the least likely to have accurate information.

In this day and age, it's growing increasingly common to turn to Google for health information. A recent study from Pew researchers found that 59 percent of people (80 percent of Internet-users) have gone online to look up health information, AFP reported.

And the practice extends to doctors, too -- a Wolters Kluwer Health survey showed that 46 percent of doctors frequently use search engines like Google and Yahoo to help treat, diagnose or care for their patients.

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