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Real medical news: Many teens trust fake medical news


The kids aren’t alright (at identifying fake news online)

If there’s one thing today’s teenagers are good at, it’s the Internet. What with their TokTiks, Fortnights, and memes whose lifespans are measured in milliseconds, it’s only natural that a contingent of people who have never known a world where the Internet wasn’t omnipresent would be highly skilled at navigating the dense, labyrinthine virtual world and the many falsehoods contained within.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been duped, bamboozled, and smeckledorfed. New research from Slovakia suggests the opposite, in fact: Teenagers are just as bad as the rest of us, if not worse, at distinguishing between fake and real online health messaging.

A teen looks at her smartphone while leaning against a school locker. monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

For the study, 300 teenagers aged 16-19 years old were shown a group of messages about the health-promoting effects of fruits and vegetables; these messages were either false, true and neutral, or true with some sort of editing (a clickbait title or grammar mistakes) to mask their trustworthiness. Just under half of the subjects identified and trusted the true neutral messages over fake messages, while 41% couldn’t tell the difference and 11% trusted the fake messages more. In addition, they couldn’t tell the difference between fake and true messages when the content seemed plausible.

In a bit of good news, teenagers were just as likely to trust the edited true messages as the true neutral ones, except in instances when the edited message had a clickbait title. They were much less likely to trust those.

Based on their subjects’ rather poor performance, the study authors suggested teenagers go through health literacy and media literacy training, as well as develop their analytical and scientific reasoning. The LOTME staff rather suspects the study authors have never met a teenager. The only thing teenagers are going to get out of health literacy training is fodder for memes to put up on Myspace. Myspace is still a thing, right? We’re not old, we swear.

Can a computer help deliver babies?

Delivering babies can be a complicated business. Most doctors and midwives rely on their years of experience and training to make certain decisions for mothers in labor, but an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm could make the entire process easier and safer.

Pregnant woman in a hospital bed ©Paul Hakimata/

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic recently reported that using an AI to analyze women’s labor patterns was very successful in determining whether a vaginal or cesarean delivery was appropriate.

They examined over 700 factors and over 66,000 deliveries from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s multicenter Consortium on Safe Labor database to produce a risk-prediction model that may “provide an alternative to conventional labor charts and promote individualization of clinical decisions using baseline and labor characteristics of each patient,” they said in a written statement from the clinic.

It is hoped that the AI will reduce the risk of possible complications and the costs associated with maternal mortality. The AI also could be a significant tool for doctors and midwives in rural areas to determine when a patient needs to be moved to a location with a higher level of care.

“We believe the algorithm will work in real time, meaning every input of new data during an expectant woman’s labor automatically recalculates the risk of adverse outcome,” said senior author Abimbola Famuyide, MD, of the Mayo Clinic.

If it all works out, many lives and dollars could be saved, thanks to science.


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