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Common Sense in a DotCom World
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American Psychological Association Helps Consumers Guard Privacy, Assess Mental Health Information Online, Washington, D.C.
In response to the growing number of Web sites offering mental health information, the American Psychological Association (APA) today released new guidelines to help consumers use "common sense" to evaluate the credibility of Web sites providing mental health advice, tips and information. The APA also offers advice on safeguarding one's privacy on the Internet. The new guidelines are featured in the free brochure titled "dotCOMSENSE".
"Rules are different in the 'dot com' world. The American Psychological Association wants to help consumers know what questions to ask and what to look for to ensure that they are getting good information when they click on a mental health Web site," says Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., APA's executive director for professional practice. "We also want to help consumers guard their privacy."
Today, there are more than 15,000 places to find health information on the Internet. According to a Harris poll, more than 60 million people searched for health information online last year - 40 percent of those users sought information about mental health. In a recent national poll conducted by the APA, the majority of Internet users say they would find it helpful to receive material about the usefulness and credibility of online mental health information.
Consumer tips provided in dotCOMSENSE include:
* Watch for commercial influences: Investigate who owns the Web site to determine whether the mental health information being provided is objective.
* Exercise caution: Check to see whether a referenced source for information is provided and whether licensed mental health practitioners or experienced researchers in the field are used.
* Guard your privacy: Make sure the Web site has a privacy policy and take time to read it before submitting any personal information.
APA recommends that consumers check Web site privacy policies to determine if personal information submitted online is traded or sold to other sites or organizations.
"Many people like to keep personal information private. This is especially true regarding mental health-related issues." Newman says. "Using some common sense while on the Internet can help people protect their privacy. This brochure, dotCOMSENSE, helps people understand just what common sense means in a 'dot com' world."
Above all else, Newman says, further investigation is warranted if something seems questionable or if there is any doubt about information being provided. APA recommends checking information with a professional association.
dotCOMSENSE is available free of charge through APA's consumer Web site, or , or by calling APA's toll-free number, 800-964-2000.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 59 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.
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