Advice on Internet searching

When your child is diagnosed with a particular condition, you may look for more information. One of the first places you may look is the Internet. You should always remember that while the Internet is a great source of information, there is also a lot of information that is out of date, unreliable or incorrect.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 you find on the Internet may not be relevant to your child’s own needs, even if the information talks about the same condition. Each child is different.

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

Health on the Net Foundation

The Health on the Net foundation was set up to give information on good quality websites for health information.

The Health on the Net Foundation has spent many years researching to find the best tips for deciding if the information you find online is of good quality. Here are some tips that they recommend:

Tips for Internet searching

  • Websites set up by the government or recognised institutions – such as public hospitals or universities – usually give information that is for your benefit and often give practical and reliable information and tips.

  • If possible, ask a member of your Early Intervention Team or the team that is working with your child for a list of reliable and relevant websites to visit.

  • Always use more than one website to get balanced information and to check information.

  • Check the source of the information – who wrote the health information; is that person qualified to give this information or do they show proper references for information they got elsewhere?

  • Check the privacy policy of the website – what information about you do they collect and if you give any personal information, what do they do with this (some sites may share your email addresses with others for advertising)?

  • Look for a seal of certification from a trusted organisation like the Health on the Net Foundation – this certifies that the website is accurate, up-to-date, and honest about things like its authors, confidentiality, funding and advertising. Always click to make sure that certification is still valid. You can check the certification of a website using the Honcode toolbar.

  • Be careful not to believe claims or promises of miraculous cures, wonder drugs and other extreme statements, unless there is reliable proof of these claims.

  • Never treat 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 getting details about your condition.

  • If you are ordering drugs from online pharmacies outside your country, you should make sure that you are not breaking the law – some countries do not allow medications from other countries into their own.

  • Some online pharmacies have been involved in various scams – always be careful when using such sites. Many US online pharmacy sites have certification called the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) – these sites are usually reliable.


Code of Ethics

The Health on the Net Foundation has developed its own code of ethics – the HONcode – for finding reliable and quality health information on the Internet.

You can read the eight principles of this code below to help you find quality health information on the Internet. 

  1. Look for the qualifications of the authors of the health information.

  2. Look for the mission and target audience of the website – the information should complement and not try to replace the doctor-patient relationship.

  3. Read the website’s privacy policy for personal information that visitors give to the website.  

  4. Look for the source(s) of the health information given, the date when it was published or the last update on the pages with health information.

  5. Think about the reasons for claims about the advantages and disadvantages of any products, treatments or services.

  6. Look for details about the webmaster or for at least one contact address.

  7. See if you can find out who funded the website.

  8. Make sure that there is a separation between the advertising and editorial content of the website

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