Internet Misinformation on Autism Spectrum Disorders in Vietnam
Objectives: This study had three main purposes. First, it evaluated the quality and accuracy of information regarding ASD on Vietnamese language websites. Second, it proposed solutions for managing and controlling the quality of information about ASD on Vietnamese language websites. Third, it provides a reference of for professionals, teachers and especially families of children with autism regarding the quality of information regarding ASD on Vietnamese websites.
Methods: Data was collected using on popular Vietnamese search engines such as Google (google.com.vn), Yahoo search (search.yahoo.com), Bing (www.bing.com), and a popular Vietnamese search engine namely Cốc Cốc (coccoc.com) using all variations of the word «autism» in Vietnamese and related disorders such as tu ky, tu ki, tu be, roi loan phat trien lan toa, Asperger, Rett. Five hundreds articles/posts in Vietnamese from various resources on the internet such as electronic journals, corporate web sites, personal blogs and forums were collected, coded for accuracy, type of information, etc. and analyzed by Atlas.Ti qualitative software.
Results: The amount of information posted about autism on the internet is quite large and frequently visited for many websites. Results showed that, in 500 posts, the majority of information was reasonably valid in regards to, for instance, the cause, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, etc. However, websites with correct information were not the most frequently visited websites, and about 30% of the information was misleading or, even invalid, with statments made with no backing evidence such as the effects of parental care, watching TV, or sad music causing ASD. There is confusion between ASD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or speech delay, depression and other mental disorders. Currently, there are many interventions and treatment methods for children with ASD promoted on the internet. The most common methods are behavioral and psychological interventions but are not specifically and clearly defined. Some treatment methods without scientific evidence are still being published widely online, such as stem-cell therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, acupuncture, meditation, and nutrition.
Conclusions: Wrong information, once it is accessed by parents, caretakers and teachers of children with ASD, may harm the children and their families in many ways. Not only wasting time using ineffective treatment methods, the treatment may make the children worsen. Incorrect understanding of the cause and prognosis of ASD may make parents guilty, having unreasonable expectations of their children, and result in iatrogenic effects (e.g., avoiding vaccinating children). This may cause significant negative consequences and require serious attention from researchers, clinicians and policy makers in Vietnam.