The Internet is a wonderful thing, truly, absolutely wonderful. It allows brilliant people to showcase their talents, wits and general awesomeness. However, it also gives various charlatans, quacks and other ignorant people the opportunity to spread misinformation–something I’m referring here to as “woo.” Yes, it rhymes with poo and that is no coincidence. People actually believe that stuff.

But why? Why do parents, many of them highly intelligent, educated people, turn to these online quacks?

Here my theories on this phenomenon:

1)      Because they don’t know what they don’t know

Science is hard, people. It takes devotion and time  and knowledge. Unfortunately, most parents are too busy and tired, so they just read up stuff on the Internet and consider that “doing research.” Even worse, some of them consider themselves experts, or call themselves “educated” when in reality they don’t know anything at all.Even worse, they often end up hurting their children or themselves due to their ignorance. It is much better to admit the lack of knowledge than pretending to have it.

2)      Because woo is persuasive

Obviously those quacks and charlatans are full of tricks. They will make their woo sound like genuine science. They will appeal to emotions, invoke feelings of guilt, make you feel like a bad parent. They will want to sell stuff that is supposed to have magical properties or they will try to lure you into attending their wacky workshops. It’s a little like a cult or a religion- if you believe, it will make you feel oh so good. You will feel the love and the support like never before. A pity it’s all useless when it lacks evidence and can even be harmful.

3)      Because it makes them feel like heroes

Parents often feel that rejecting their doctor’s advice is a way of advocating for their child. But doctors are not there to judge you, they are here to help. Provided, of course that they are real doctors, not quacks. I know how good it feels to go against the flow. It’s good to believe that you and only you have that special knowledge and everyone else is just stupid and clueless. But sometimes the mainstream is right and everyone else is wrong. 

4)       Because it gives them a sense of control

Parenting is so messy. And parents like to feel that they have at least some sense of control. Quacks and charlatans love to take advantage of that. It’s no wonder that their websites often provide a combination of wishful thinking, half-truths and outright lies. Believing in these messages makes parents think that they can at least control something about their chaotic lives.  But aren’t there better ways? Like actually, really taking control over your lives, and actually getting the best help possible- from a real expert who knows stuff? 

There is a lot of misinformation out there. Some of it is because of ignorance, or because of a desire to make money off gullible parents, sometimes it’s a simple misunderstanding of how things really work. I am not even sure which one is worse.

Please don’t believe in the woo. You don’t always have to agree with your doctor, but you’d better have a good reason. When someone tells you that some kind of diet will cure all diseases, drop it like it’s hot. Remember that there is a reason why we have real experts.

And last but not least, please think about your children. They need to be able to tell a fact from a lie, a good study from a bad one. They need to know where to find reliable information about their health and well being. They need to know what to believe and what to ignore as lacking evidence. Talk to them. Educate them. Teach them. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who will: a doctor, a well-informed family member, a teacher for example. Oh and for goodness sake, please stop posting that quacky-wacky stuff on Facebook. You know what I’m talking about. The article that give you the impression that they come from respected scientific journals but are nothing but a hoax. Yes THOSE articles. Stop sharing them. Right now.

Let the woo stop here. 


Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and three children. On her blog, she writes about the challenges and wonders of the expat life, but on BLUNTmoms, you will read her musings on parenting, people and life in general.


  1. Very well written! I’m a big proponent for critical thinking using evidence-based science when it comes to food, medicine and other related topics for parenting discussions. See the big sunscreen woo going around? That sunscreen doesn’t prevent skin cancer? Discouraging parents to use it? All it takes is a bit of research and BOOM, debunked. Highly encourage other parents to look into things a bit more before falling for the woo. You’re so right—it’s a highly emotional topic that tugs at a parent’s heart strings, but we need to know better and to dig deeper! Stay away from the likes of Mercola, Pollan, Jeffrey Smith, Food Babe, Mamavation—they all have their own agenda and it’s to instill fear and spread information.

    • While I agree with this I have some other thoughts. I have been thinking on this for a while now. Why do smart, well educated, even well off parents make choices that fly in the face of science? And I think that the mix of science and policy with the overtone of money is what scares people. Since so much of our government is bought and sold anymore, corporations have rights as though they were people, and companies time and again put their profit ahead of people’s well being it’s easy to take that next leap that things like vaccinations or public schools have a hidden agenda.

      You give the example of sunscreen. The fact is that there are ingredients in many sunscreens that are known to cause cancer. Now the FDA is reviewing spray sunscreens because they may not be safe for children. Yet the message is that “you must always wear sunscreen!” I can see that it doesn’t take a wild imagination to go from the messaging to the fact that the products have ingredients that are known to be unhealthy – put it together and you have a somewhat valid fear about how safe our world is.

      • I agree, Emily. A lot of what drives anti mainstream belief is the fact that industry IS corrupt and has a long history of screwing the consumer. People know that, so it’s easy for them to get duped into snake oil. It’s hard to separate the legitimate science from the “industry” science. It leads to a lot of confusion. Especially when the media gets involved.
        A perfect example of this is the science of climate change. Look how much fossil fuel company “scientists” are able to disrupt things. Even when everyone knows that 98% of scientists agree on the topic, big oil and coal still manage to have a strangle hold on the government, keeping them from achieving any real change. These people are literally willing to extinguish all life on this planet in order to line their pockets a little further before they too are extinguished, and so far they are being very, very successful at accomplishing that eventual end. Knowing this, it’s really not that hard to imagine that another for profit industry, say, the pharmaceutical industry, is poisoning kids to line their pockets. Why not?
        If our medical system were trust worthy, if we had decent education, and if we could actually count on our elected officials to represent the people of their various districts/states, then we would probably have a lot fewer issues with woo. Unfortunately, we have decided to permit corrupt industry and government, and dilute public education with endless testing and replacing trained teachers with low cost, untrained text book readers, so yeah, there are going to be a lot of people rejecting anything that seems like it supports the system. And we shouldn’t be surprised.

        • I totally agree that big pharma and the like have done some pretty dreadful things, but a lot of the woo sellers are just in it for the money and /or fame as well. The difference is they don’t have to spend millions running proper(ish) trials and jumping through regulatory hoops. Pure profit! In many case the companies making conventional drugs and alternatives/supplements are one anda the same anyway!

        • Hi Emily, people just don’t understand that there are scientists working for the industry that are not corrupted. In many cases it feels so good to be agains the giant corporations etc. when it’s in fact just confirmation bias. People don’t know what they don’t know, they really don’t. And science isn’t about being authoritative, on the contrary, all scientists think they need to be proven wrong. But the arguments need to be solid science not because someone believes he’s right.

      • I didn’t even mention policies and politics but it does of course play a role. Maybe it’s different in Europe where I live but I think it’s not as bad as in the US for example (or so I hope)!

    • Thank you for your comment, Sarah. The most troubling thing is that parents who read woo-websites actually claim they DID their research and now know better! But all they did was read some wacky website that are everything BUT research! That’s not research that’s wel, reading stuff up on the Internet. And I do agree, stay away from these websites you mentioned!

  2. Great post, mums need to be more aware of this stuff, so much money is made out of worrying us unnecessarily and you make a good point about teaching our children how to interpret this stuff too.

    • Thank you kindly, Southwarkbelle! This stuff is important and needs to be shared. And it’s sad how many well-meant, educated people fall for this stuff.

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