Researchers Share Recommendations to Combat Health Misinformation Spread to Adolescents on Social Media


The researchers emphasized that individuals must advocate for new policies that could aid regulation of harmful information being shared through social media platforms.

New study findings demonstrate that health misinformation shared through social media could outweigh the benefits of promoting health online among adolescents. Published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers offered recommendations for health experts, educators, parents, caregivers, and policymakers to lessen children’s exposure to inaccurate information and create more healthy engagement online.

Social media concept - Image credit: REDPIXEL |

Image credit: REDPIXEL |

Social media is one of the main sources for information among young individuals and the study authors noted that children engage with online platforms for an average of 5 hours daily. According to research, the main platforms include TikTok and Instagram.

However, not all health information spread on these platforms is misinformation. Research has found that promoting adolescents’ health on social media has provided a feeling of community, social support, and offered culturally relevant information.

Despite this, the health misinformation also being shared online mitigates the positive effects that were found.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) said that they do not believe the solution to this issue is to restrict adolescents’ presence on the platforms. Due to the significant role social media has on their lives and because of the positive information being shared, they do not believe preventing the exposure to the harmful misinformation is the only remedy.

“We all have a part to play in how we consume and share information, whether big or small,” said Monica Wang, ScD, associate professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, in a press release. “Harnessing social media as a tool that can empower us, rather than one that misleads us, can help us nurture the health of our society online and offline.”

Wang and Katherine Togher, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian and graduate of BUSPH, partnered to create recommendations on how to direct social media misinformation to aid adolescent health. The first recommendation included “improving adolescents' media information literacy skills.”

Wang and Togher said that this could start in schools. Teaching students how to recognize if information is accurate or not could benefit adolescents’ awareness. They believe if students are also taught the role of the algorithm, which determines what content will be shown for each viewer, it would allow adolescents to pinpoint the inaccuracy in feeds.

“Social media algorithms tailor content shown based on users’ past interactions,” Wang explains. “If a user primarily interacts with content that aligns with their existing beliefs or preferences, the algorithm will prioritize showing similar content moving forward. This algorithmic bias can inadvertently limit exposure to comprehensive information and reinforce and perpetuate skewed or inaccurate content.”

Wang and Togher also suggested that parents and caregivers discuss adding privacy controls and a balance of online engagement and offline activities to ensure proactive and protective health measures.

Lastly, Wang and Togher recommend that business, health educators, social organizations, and other social media users promote and share diverse, inclusive content that could create positive connections and encouraging mental well-being.

"Promoting inclusivity and celebrating diversity on social media and within our community allows youth to flourish in a positive environment that promotes mental well-being,” Togher said in the press release. “Social media is a primary source of information for youth. Having skills and strategies to discern misinformation from fact is critical. Misleading nutrition claims, false health advice, and heavily filtered images, have been shown to pose serious risks of developing disordered eating behaviors and poor mental health."

However, the researchers emphasized that individuals must advocate for new policies that could aid regulation of harmful information being shared through social media platforms. Obtaining the benefits of social media require collective action, said Wang.

“Left unaddressed, the prevalence of health misinformation on social media poses significant challenges for adolescent health and health equity,” said Wang and Togher in the press release. By embracing the above recommendations, “we can empower adolescents and support their overall health online and offline.”


Inclusive content, peer support, media information literacy can combat health misinformation spread to adolescents on social media. EurekAlert!. News release. December 11, 2023. Accessed December 12, 2023.

Related Videos
Therapy session -- Image credit: pressmaster |
Image credit: |
Young depressed woman talking to lady psychologist during session, mental health - Image credit: motortion |
man taking opioid pills sitting at a dark table - Image credit: rohane |
Image credit: motortion | - Young depressed woman talking to lady psychologist during session, mental health
Image credit:  JPC-PROD | - Choosing method of contraception : Birth control pills, an injection syringe, condom, IUD-method, on grey
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.