Advice on Internet searching

When your child is diagnosed with a disability, you may be looking for information, and naturally one of the first sources you might use is the Internet. It is important to be aware that while the Internet is a great source of information, there is also a lot of information that is out of date, unreliable or incorrect.

It is also important to note that the information that you find on the Internet, even if it refers to the same diagnosis, may not be relevant for your child's individual needs, as each child differs.

We have listed below some tips for searching the Internet to help you find reliable and accurate information.

Health on the Net Foundation

The Health on the Net website was set up specifically with the purpose of providing information on good quality websites for health information.

They have spent many years researching to find the best tips for assessing if the information you are accessing online is of good quality. Here are some of the tips that they recommend: 

Millions of people worldwide seek health information on the Internet. There are thousands of websites offering health information to meet this need. However, as you probably know, all websites are not equally reliable and do not all provide quality information.

The HONcode is the oldest and most reliable code of ethics and quality for health and medical information on the Internet.

By following the principles which comprise the HONcode, look for the following information on a website:

1. The qualifications of authors of health information

2. Complementarity: To complement and not to replace the doctor-patient relationship.
The mission and target audience of the site

3. The privacy policy for personal information submitted by site visitors

4. The source(s) of the health information provided and the dates of publication / last update on the pages with health information

5. The justifications for claims about the benefits and disadvantages of products, treatments or services.

6. The accessibility of information, identification of the webmaster, the availability of at least one contact address

7. Sources of funding of the site

8. The separation between the advertising and editorial content

To guide you in applying these 8 principles, the Health On the Net Foundation provides you with tools to assess the reliability and quality of a website. Click here for further information

Here are some recommendations to follow

  • Websites provided by your government or recognised institutions (public hospitals, universities, ...) are offered for your benefit only and usually contain lots of practical and reliable information and tips.
  • If possible, ask a doctor or a member of your early services team for a list of reliable and relevant websites to visit.
  • Always use more than one website to receive balanced information and to check information.
  • Upon visiting any website, check the source of the information provided (Who has written the health information? Is that person qualified to give this information? If not, have the references from which he/she obtained this information, been provided?)
  • Check the privacy policy of a website to know what information about you (non-personal) is collected by them and if you provide any personal information, what they do with this. (Some sites may share your email addresses with others for advertising)
  • Many reliable websites have a seal of certification from a trusted accrediting organization like the Health On the Net Foundation. This certification certifies that the site provides transparency regarding the authority, authorship, confidentiality, funding, is up-to date, honest about advertising and provides clear distinction between advertisement and editorial content. Always click to make sure that certification is still valid.
    The status of certification of a website can be confirmed using the HONcode Toolbar which can be downloaded at:
    Please remember that as a web page may change at any time, HON cannot verify and assure the content, and for any doubt, a health professional should be contacted.

  • Always be careful. DO NOT believe claims or promises of miraculous cures, wonder drugs and other extreme statements unless there is proof to these claims.

  • NEVER regard information found on the internet, in a book or anywhere else as medical advice. Only a medical professional can give you medical advice after consulting with you and gaining knowledge about your specific condition.

  • Those ordering drugs from online pharmacies based outside their country of residence should make sure that there are no legal laws against doing this. (Some countries do not allow medications from other countries into their own)

  • Quite a few online pharmacies have been involved in various scams. Thus you should be very careful when accessing such sites. Many US online pharmacy sites have the seal of certification ‘VIPPS’ (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) developed by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. These sites are usually reliable.

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  • Informing Families Project, National Federation of Voluntary Bodies,  Oranmore Business Park,  Oranmore, Galway
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