Exploring Online Resources for Childhood Eczema: A Survey of Parents’ Online Resource use and mixed methods analysis of Online Exchanges
Parents and carers of children with eczema often turn to social media sites and online discussion forums for their information and peer-support needs. Little is known about the information that parents share and receive on these online platforms about treatments for eczema, whether these discussions are medically accurate, and how this influences people’s subsequent experiences of consulting. This study aimed to explore what information and support people seek online, the accuracy of the information, and how it influenced behaviour.
We carried out an online survey study to initially determine 1) The online resources that parents of children with eczema most frequently use; 2) The type of advice and support they seek from these online resources; 3) How online information might influence their management of their child’s eczema. Following this, qualitative thematic analysis will be used to explore beliefs about eczema treatments expressed in discussion threads in three popular online resources identified from the survey. We will then conduct a medical accuracy assessment of these discussions, focusing on five criteria: accuracy, completeness, sensibility, the influence of the discussions on the discussion leader, the value of the discussions to the discussion leader.
133 parents and carers of children with eczema completed the survey. 55% of parents reported health information websites (e.g. NHS Choices) as most used initially for advice and support (47%), with subsequent use transitioning to Facebook and other social media sites (43%). Most participants sought online information about treatments (35%), followed by eczema causes (20%), and emotional support about eczema (18%). Parents more often reported that they had acted upon information they had read on social media sites (e.g Facebook) and discussion forums (e.g. Mumsnet) (90%) than on health information websites (85%). Facebook support groups were reported as the most commonly used online platform for advice and support about their children’s eczema (61%), followed by a range of online discussion forums. Findings to date from the analyses of parents’ discussions about treatments for eczema, on these identified popular social media sites/online discussion forums will also be presented.
This study provides an insight into parents’ experiences with online resources for advice and support about their children’s eczema. It allows academics and clinicians in primary care to better understand the perspectives that parents bring to their consultations about their use of online resources for advice about eczema treatments. This study will also suggest how to best sign-post parents to online resources that meet their needs and contain medically accurate information.