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Research Studies Often Contradict Each Other

5:49 PM, Dec 5, 2011   |    comments
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Greensboro, N.C. -- There are new studies coming out all the time about everything from the foods you eat to how much time your child spends on the internet. However, they often contradict each other.

Monday, a new study came out saying teenagers aren't sexting on their cell phones as much as once believed. So, how can you tell if the research is really representative or if it's exaggerated one way or another?

Kelly McBride, a faculty member of the Poynter Institute, told WFMY News 2, "There is so much out there that doesn't even come close to being actual science that spin agents try and push off as science. The problem has actually gotten a lot more complicated than what it used to be."

Before you look at what a study found, she says we should ask three questions:

1. Who paid for it?
2. How sound is the science? (In other words, what was the research method? How did the researcher collect and analyze data?)
3. What questions can the study really answer?

Let's take a look at the new study that came out Monday that says only one percent of teens are sexting.

It's published in a scientific journal -- Pediatrics. Researchers primarily gathered data by calling teenagers who had landline phones.

However, another recent study on the same topic found that nearly 40 percent of teens are sexting. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned pregnancy funded that study. Researchers collected information through online surveys.

So, which do you believe? A professor at Elon University says you have to look at all studies with a critical eye.

"You can't really base anything off of one study. You want to see what the trends say. You want to see if study after study supports that notion," Eric Hall, Elon University Associate Professor, said.

Bottom line: don't just look at the headlines when new studies come out. Dig a little deeper to find out more about them before you take them too seriously.

WFMY News 2

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