Behind the Data: Dubious Stat of the Day

According to a Northwestern University study announced today in the New York Times, four-fifths of teens look for health-related information online, but they don’t always trust what they find.

Seems legit.

At least until this tidbit: “Forty-three percent said they had seen pornography online.”  At the time of this writing, the full study wasn’t available, so I can’t evaluate the breakdowns of that 43%, but at the very least, it means that some boys have not looked at porn online.

Uh huh.

This study takes on some important topics, such as how teens address mental health problems such as depression or anorexia as well as physical ailments.  Educators, physicians, lawmakers and especially parents should have an idea of how kids are handling very difficult topics.  For this effort, Northwestern deserves praise.

However, if the study writers want me to believe that most teens have not looked at naked people online, I am, if you’ll excuse the expression, leery of it.  Men my age can joke about how they used to go at great lengths to secure Playboy and other fine periodicals while today’s kids just need a computer and a little privacy.

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I have seen the Golden Palace of the Himalayas!

I’d like to see the study as a whole to see if they address this seemingly low number.  Maybe they define pornography in a very limited way.  After all, as Potter Stewart said, I know it when I see it.

And you know what?  When I see reliable stats on how teens consume health information, I’ll know that, too.

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