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Parenting Online

Parenting OnlineTufts experts are helping parents untangle the web to find the most accurate information on parents and children available on the Internet. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.03.03] Searching for parenting information on the web can be difficult business. While there are thousands of webpages that claim to have useful information, a new Tufts study shows that many parents have trouble finding sound advice amongst the daunting number of advertisement-driven and contradictory websites. But that may change, thanks to a team of Tufts researchers who have developed an innovative new resource designed to help parents find the best tips online.

"There is a lot of junk out there for parents on the Internet, and even when it isn't junk, it's often either not trustworthy or it's inconsistent with current child development findings," Fred Rothbaum - professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts - told The New York Times.

Rothbaum - who recently lead a Tufts study on the quality of child development information on the Internet - said that advertisers sponsor much of the parenting material online.

"According to Dr. Rothbaum and his research team, at least 70 percent of Internet sites that carry information about products and services, like educational toys, family vacations or children's movies, are also trying to sell a product or service," reported the Times.

The Tufts team found that parents - weary of the sponsor-influenced material found online - are often left digging for more trustworthy sources containing information on child development. As a result, the web has taken a back seat to sources that parents deem more reliable.

"[In their study], researchers at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University found that the Internet was only the fifth-most-trusted resource for information for parents, after books, pediatricians, relatives and friends, and magazines," reported the Times.

But the Tufts experts are hoping to change that with the Tufts University Child and Family WebGuide. The website provides links to hundreds of websites - which are all reviewed and rated by graduate students and faculty of the Eliot-Pearson department.

"The goal of the WebGuide is to give the public easy access to the best child development information on the Web," experts at Tufts wrote in the site's introduction.

The task of sorting through the wide range of material on the Internet was a big undertaking.

"To help parents sort through all the resources available online, the Tufts researchers recently screened more than 5,000 child- and family-oriented Web sites to find those that they felt were less commercial but were authoritative, easy to use and well maintained," reported the Times. "They said they had found about 400 sites that met their criteria."

All sites linked from the WebGuide are recommended, and additionally evaluated by the Tufts researchers as "excellent", "very good", or "good."

Covering child development issues on kids up to age 19, the topics on the site range from breast feeding to self-esteem to drug/alcohol abuse.


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