Toronto Metropolitan University
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Social Media Content About Children's Pain and Sleep: Content and Network Analysis

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-01, 20:57 authored by Michelle E. Tougas, Christine T. Chambers, Penny Corkum, Julie M. Robillard, Anatoliy GruzdAnatoliy Gruzd, Vivian Howard, Andrea Kampen, Katelynn E. Boerner, Amos S. Hundert

Background: Social media is often used for health communication and can facilitate fast information exchange. Despite its increasing use, little is known about child health information sharing and engagement over social media.

Objective: The primary objectives of this study are to systematically describe the content of social media posts about child pain and sleep and identify the level of research evidence in these posts. The secondary objective is to examine user engagement with information shared over social media.

Methods: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook were searched by members of the research team over a 2-week period using a comprehensive search strategy. Codes were used to categorize the content of posts to identify the frequency of content categories shared over social media platforms. Posts were evaluated by content experts to determine the frequency of posts consistent with existing research evidence. User engagement was analyzed using Netlytic, a social network analysis program, to examine visual networks illustrating the level of user engagement.

Results: From the 2-week period, nearly 1500 pain-related and 3800 sleep-related posts were identified and analyzed. Twitter was used most often to share knowledge about child pain (639/1133, 56.40% of posts), and personal experiences for child sleep (2255/3008, 75.00% of posts). For both topics, Instagram posts shared personal experiences (53/68, 78% pain; 413/478, 86.4% sleep), Facebook group posts shared personal experiences (30/49, 61% pain; 230/345, 66.7% sleep) and Facebook pages shared knowledge (68/198, 34.3% pain; 452/1026, 44.05% sleep). Across platforms, research evidence was shared in 21.96% (318/1448) of pain- and 9.16% (445/4857) of sleep-related posts; 5.38% (61/1133) of all pain posts and 2.82% (85/3008) of all sleep posts shared information inconsistent with the evidence, while the rest were absent of evidence. User interactions were indirect, with mostly one-way, rather than reciprocal conversations.

Conclusions: Social media is commonly used to discuss child health, yet the majority of posts do not contain research evidence, and user engagement is primarily one-way. These findings represent an opportunity to expand engagement through open conversations with credible sources. Research and health care communities can benefit from incorporating specific information about evidence within social media posts to improve communication with the public and empower users to distinguish evidence-based content better. Together, these findings have identified potential gaps in social media communication that may be informative targets to guide future strategies for improving the translation of child health evidence over social media.




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