The BBC reported that misinformation on social media platforms, particularly TikTok, is contributing to a rise in abortions. Young girls are increasingly exposed to myths about hormonal contraception, leading many to rely on unreliable fertility tracking apps.
A recent study by Superdrug Online Doctor found that a concerning 55% of health-related TikTok videos are misleading or inaccurate. This misinformation can result in confusion, misdiagnosis, and heightened anxiety. Given that 80% of the UK’s population consumes health information on social media, young girls, who are more likely to act on such content, are particularly vulnerable.
Dr Babak Ashrafi, a GP specialising in sexual health who collaborated on the study, emphasized the importance of comprehensive sexual education. “There’s a taboo around sex that makes young girls feel it’s inappropriate. Sexual education is vital for their well-being and development. It should be accurate, supportive, and non-judgmental, empowering girls to make informed decisions about their sexual health.”
Parents also play a crucial role. “Parents should be active participants in their daughters’ sexual education journey, ensuring conversations about sex are supportive and informative,” Dr Ashrafi added.
Misinformation is not gender-specific. The same study highlighted misconceptions about men’s health. Over a third of Brits mistakenly believe that wearing tight boxers affects sperm quality, while 91% were unaware that decreased facial hair could indicate a low sperm count.
Dr Ashrafi further commented on the inadequacy of sex education in schools. “72% of UK residents felt their sex education was basic or poor. We need to offer a safe space for children to learn accurate information about these topics, preventing them from relying on social media.”
Psychologist Smriti Joshi provided tips on discerning misleading posts:
- Be aware of algorithms. Social media platforms show more of what you engage with, potentially limiting exposure to diverse and credible sources.
- Be critical. Question the information’s relevance to you. Compare it with other sources and consult your GP if unsure.
- Check the source. Ensure information comes from reputable sources like the NHS or licensed healthcare professionals.
- Be sceptical. If something seems too good or too outlandish to be true, it likely is.
- Avoid following trends blindly: Don’t act on advice just because it’s popular on social media. Everyone’s needs are unique; consult credible sources.