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IWK Research Looks At Whether Social Media Can Help With Managing Children’s Pain

Social media continues to play an ever-increasing role in our lives, and an IWK researcher is investigating how it can play in role in managing children’s pain.

Dr. Christine Chambers, a children’s pain expert at the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research, is the lead investigator of a project called It Doesn’t Have to Hurt.

The 12-month long project, a partnership with yummymummyclub.ca, will examine how social media and public health interact.

“As a researcher I assumed all the research I was doing was making a difference in children’s lives but as a parent, I realized that a lot of research that gets published in academic journals just ends up staying in the journals,” she said.

Chambers, who is on social media herself, said more parents are turning to social media for help. Her lab at the IWK will provide yummymummyclub.ca with content every month for a year. The content will be disseminated through Facebook, Twitter and Youtube; the project uses the hashtag #itdoesnthavetohurt. Topics will range from newborn pain to needles to headaches.

“All children have pain. Even if you have a healthy child who doesn’t have a chronic illness. Pain affects all children in all families so our goal with this campaign is to arm parents with all the information they would need to help deal with any type of pain their child might experience,” she said.

Chambers said researchers will examine analytics to see how far each piece of content reaches and conduct online and telephone surveys with parents to gauge their awareness and use of pain control strategies.

“We’re really keen to get parent input on ‘Do you know more about children’s pain now’ and ‘Are you using evidence based strategies more’?” she said.

Parental involvement

Holly Gillis has two five-year-old twin daughters, Rori and Georgia, and is a parent advisor to the It Doesn’t Have to Hurt project. Gillis said she turns to social media often for advice on children’s pain.

“We’ve had a lot of ear infections, a few bumps and bruises and trips to the emergency room. Just knowing different strategies that you can have in your back pocket to pull out when your child is in pain is really helpful,” she said.

Gillis has no plans to get rid of her family doctor but said using social media for information on children’s pain is a good supplement.

“You can go to the source. You can find out if that’s reliable information. Where is it coming from? Is there any science behind it? You can also look for more information,” she said.

“To get more effective strategies out there to help the family, to help kids at the end of the day, social media allows that. Being able to share short videos like what do you do when you’re taking your child to get vaccinated [is helpful].”

Parent Rob MacCormick spends a lot of time on social media, and he is excited about It Doesn’t Have to Hurt.

His son Liam, 16, is managing pain from a jellyfish sting five years ago, and his daughter Emma, 13, who is a dancer also has rheumatoid arthritis.

“When bad things happen, it’s not usually Monday to Friday from nine to five. It could be two in the morning, your kids are upset, they’re in pain and you want to come up with a solution for them,” he said.

“I’m the guy who has a phone in his hand and I’m just trying to learn more. It’s really going to be there for those times you’re looking to get that information in a hurry.”

Chambers said researchers will evaluate the project after the 12-month trial to see whether the partnership should continue, and if so, what changes could be made.

The project officially launches online September 21.