Stop Googling Your Parenting Questions
A quick Google search can get you all sorts of helpful information. It can tell you what happened to tan M&Ms. It can tell you the movie with the longest run time is about 35 days longer than you would have thought. It can tell you that we have been Googling answers to such questions for 19 years.
But when we’re at our most vulnerable, when we actually need the advice of trusted experts to guide us through our roughest moments, Google can let us down.
Imagine you are a new parent. You’re finally getting into a fragile routine, and everyone is sleeping for six or more hours per night. Then, suddenly, around nine months or so, your baby starts waking on the hour. You’re sure that something’s wrong, so before you even find your glasses you blearily type “9mnth old wpn’t slep.” Google figures out that you’re really asking for and corrects your query. Now you have dozens of articles describing the “nine month sleep regression” and offering advice about how to get through it.
There are three big problems with this strategy. First, searches like these pathologize things that aren’t problems. All those helpful articles about the “nine month sleep regression” you just read probably won’t solve your problem because there is no such thing as the nine month sleep regression, at least not medically. There is certainly such a thing as a nine-month-old who won’t sleep, though, as well as eight-month-olds, 10-month-olds, and 36-year-olds.
Second, these searches will often lead to judgment. Instead of finding that magic trick that will get your baby back to sleep, you’ll find judgment about monstrous parents damaging their children by letting them cry it out or overprotective parents making their children dependent for life by nursing them to sleep. Neither of these positions is helpful for a person in the midst of trench parenting.
Third, many of the big-name parenting sites that appear in your search results often cite each other, which leads to an echo chamber in which everyone is offering identical advice without strong evidence for their claims.
There is a better place to search for answers to your parenting questions: Google Scholar. Maybe you’ve never heard of it. Maybe you used it once or twice for a college research paper. Maybe you use it all the time for your work, just never for your parenting. No matter what your experience level is, you can use this search tool to find more satisfying answers to your parenting questions.
Here are four tips to help you get started.
1 | Begin with a real question
Google Scholar is simple to use, but it will require you to think differently about how you research. Search queries like “nine month old won’t sleep,” or “Toddler won’t eat broccoli,” or “Five-year-old won’t stop climbing furniture” are poor searches because they presume that these issues are problems. Those searches will only result in articles designed at fixing the problems….