Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Julie Ann Pooley

Second Advisor

Dr Myra Taylor

Abstract

Adolescents readily engage in online entertainment pursuits, however, it is their online social activities and health information searches that encourage psychosocial development and influence identity formation and autonomy. Considerable research has been completed on various aspects of adolescents’ encounters with online health information (for example, see Percheski & Hargittai, 2011), yet minimal research has been conducted using Australian adolescents. This study extends existing research utilising Western Australian adolescents who have used the Internet to obtain health information. The areas explored include how Western Australian adolescents search for online health information, by means of which devices, and their experiences of using the Internet as a health resource. A phenomenological qualitative design incorporating narrative enquiry was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 participants aged 13-17 years old. Thematic analysis based on an interpretive approach was used to analyse the data. Three themes emerged, and most participants relayed positive experiences of looking for online health information. The themes were: “My life kind of revolves around it”, “Google it”, and “Judging websites by their cover”. Western Australian adolescents do search for health information online; however it must be purposeful. They feel encouraged to continue to use the Internet to assist with health related questions. As previously suggested by Goold, Ward, and Carlin (2003), this study recommends the involvement of adolescents in the development of health pages and websites to improve the sites’ chances of successfully reaching their target adolescent audience.

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