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A user recently asked a question about ways to help their child tolerate wearing a face mask, which has garnered 5K views to date. The OP even felt the need to clarify that "this would be purely just for me to feel that she is protected." (Perhaps I misunderstand, but the clarification reads as discouraging medical arguments.)

The policy on this site has been to close medical questions, but there is nothing about comments or answers that carry on such a discussion.

The first comment under the question gives a medical opinion:

Not part of your question and I am by no means a medical professional, but...

There is even this (medically inaccurate) comment:

The evidence showing mask usage to be beneficial is inconclusive, at best. And even so, for kids the Covid-19 virus is not a threat at all. There is no rational reason to force her to wear a mask if she doesn't want to.

Not only a medical claim but a frame challenge to boot.

It continues both under the OP's post and in at least one frame challenging answer.

This is more than a bit disconcerting to me, as I cringe at misinformation and opinion offered as medical facts. As an HNQ, this gets a lot of views and, as HNQ's are wont to do, attract some fringe elements who join just to make iffy (policy-wise) comments. Many who visit the site for just this HNQ will get the impression that this kind of discussion is acceptable on the site.

My question is two fold (if the frame challenge issue is ignored):

Are medical discussions in comments allowed on this site? And, if so, why aren't medical questions allowed when comments serving as de facto medical answers are?

Confession: I took part in the comment chain to try to counteract misinformation, so I am guilty as well.

  • Hi, I wasn't aware that frame challenge answers aren't allowed here. Is there a policy documenting that? I'll note that the sentence "this would be purely just for me to feel that she is protected" was the main reason I posted the frame challenge - the mask is likely to make matters worse, and feeling like the child is protected may cause a reduction in more effective measures, such as hand washing. (Also I am also not a medical professional, I merely tried to use reliable sources. If I made a medical mistake please do point it out). – Tim Jun 19 '20 at 18:11
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    Separately, addressing the medical side: even if frame challenges were permitted, we don't want medical content on this site as we're not doctors (apart from @anongoodnurse) and can't responsibly vet the content even if it's well sourced; and your answer is well sourced, thanks for that, but points out this specific issue - it's easy to find information supporting either point of view, and it's not reasonable for our users to vet that effectively. Some sites take on that responsibility - Skeptics for example - but we choose not to. – Joe Jun 19 '20 at 18:14
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The question itself I don't feel is a medical question, and so I think it's appropriate. It's not asking "is this medical thing safe", or "is my child sick", or "how should I treat my child". It's asking, "Given I want to help my child [do something health-related], how can I help get her cooperation in doing that?" That's the sort of thing parents are good at answering - it's really a behavior/getting kids to cooperate question, basically.

The frame challenge answer is entirely inappropriate both because it is a frame challenge (which is explicitly not permitted) and because of its medical nature. If it were not a frame challenge, then the question would be a medical question and not on topic; thus, it's not ever going to be appropriate here, in my opinion.

And of course the follow up question is clearly off topic as it's a medical question, and presumably will be closed soon.

As far as comments: no, I don't think they should be the place for discussions of medical topics. Chat is the appropriate spot for that.

  • As I've said in the comments - can you direct me to where I'm told that frame challenge answers aren't allowed? I've searched Meta, and the help centre seems to explicitly allow them: ("Read the question carefully. What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”...") – Tim Jun 19 '20 at 18:13
  • @Tim The help center is basically generic for all SE sites, unfortunately, so that isn't specific to us - I linked in the OP to the meta question that established this years ago. – Joe Jun 19 '20 at 18:15
  • yes I've seen the post. Can I suggest you edit in the phrase "frame challenge" to aid searchability. It's unfortunate that the help centre directly contradicts site policy - and quite frustrating as a new contributor to find that out. Certainly not your fault, but still not a great UX! – Tim Jun 19 '20 at 18:17
  • Actually, this post seems even better than the one you posted: parenting.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/123/…, with more explanation of why you have the policy (very strong opinions re parenting (e.g. co-sleeping) it would seem!) – Tim Jun 19 '20 at 18:18
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    @Tim That one is quite a bit older - the other one is clarifying it. I'll add "frame challenge" to it. – Joe Jun 19 '20 at 18:21
  • There is an argument that it is asking how to apply for medical treatment, even if it isn't directly asking about the efficacy of the treatment. I imagine asking how to apply a specific ointment, for example would be off topi.I will agree that this isn't exactly the same but it's getting towards it. If one could reasonably ask a doctor this question (which I think one could) it's probably a medical question. – Tim Jun 19 '20 at 18:39
  • @Joe - I agree that the question is completely on topic, and timely to boot, as many countries are 'opening up'. – anongoodnurse Jun 19 '20 at 18:55
  • @Tim I think that there's an important difference between "how do I do [some medical thing]" and "how do I get my child to agree to do [some medical thing]". I do think it's a bit fuzzy sometimes, but that's what voting is for I guess :) – Joe Jun 19 '20 at 18:56
  • @Joe that’s true. Perhaps “how do I keep my child calm while I pit cold ointment on” would be perfectly acceptable. As you say: let’s wait for votes. I’m certainly not invested enough in this site to have a big say on how it’s run! – Tim Jun 19 '20 at 18:59
  • @Tim and we usually accept questions in a medical context when it’s not about the treatment per se, but the “parenting side”, for example how to teach a child to swallow a pill (it’s a technique, like how to eat with a spoon) or how to help a child to take a bad tasting medicine. – Stephie Jun 19 '20 at 19:09
  • Exactly - I guess a good metric would be, if Mary Poppins would be helpful, then it's on topic? :) – Joe Jun 19 '20 at 19:10
  • @Tim - Speaking as a physician, let's use this example: "My daughter was prescribed prednisolone. How many times a day should she take it?" <- Medical question. "Prednisolone tastes horrible! How do I get my daughter to take it?" <- Good Parenting question (also a good question to ask a provider.) In either case, the answer should not be: "Prednisilone has never been shown to be helpful in treating x in children. Don't bother giving it to her." – anongoodnurse Jun 20 '20 at 14:16
  • @anongoodnurse that’s fair. I remain concerned about a question which asked a blatantly harmful question (e.g. “how do I prevent my teenager from getting vaccinated”, or “how do I keep my child calm when giving them hydroxychloroquine to prevent coronavirus”), if you’re not allowing frame challenge answers but if that’s the community consensus then I guess it stays... I guess my question is to what degree does this community have a duty of care towards a child when a parent reveals they (objectively) are not doing what is best for the child. What should be done in that case? – Tim Jun 20 '20 at 14:22
  • @Tim - We are not self-appointed Child Protective Services, we are parents answering parenting questions. If you don't like a question about spanking, you can downvote it or pass on it. (Enough DV allows users to delete a question.) But you can't answer, "Spanking is illegal in N countries; it is never OK, and you're a bad parent for using that method of punishment." You may not like that, but that's a frame challenge, and frame challenges are off-topic on many SE sites. What may be reprehensible to you is not necessarily a universally shared opinion. – anongoodnurse Jun 20 '20 at 14:42
  • @anongoodnurse agreed, hence I didn’t use something which is controversial as my example, I used something harmful. Are you saying (let’s take the extreme) we’d allow something about practicing FGM, simply because it’s not illegal everywhere, and some people (who are wrong) consider it acceptable? The other point would be that deleting a question does not help the child. Again: are we not self appointed CPS? Do we not have a duty to act when we see harm occurring? – Tim Jun 20 '20 at 14:46
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The fact that there's a community specific close reason would suggest it's off topic:

Requests for medical advice are off-topic here; you should contact a qualified medical professional instead. See: How do you know when it is time to take a child to the Doctor?

While this user isn't directly asking for medical advice, this is getting very close to the line (and evidently generating unconstructive discussion).

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I apologize that it's taken so long to answer back to this. The reasoning for the delay is two-fold: I wanted the right words to say and I wanted the community to cool down. I feel like I/we are there now.

Are medical discussions allowed on Parenting?

In the comments on question or answer posts? No. In the chat - yes.

Discussions, especially extended discussions, aren't allowed in the comments (period).

To address commenting

From the tour of our site:

  • Use comments to ask for more information or clarify a question or answer.
  • You can always comment on your own questions and answers. Once you earn 50 reputation, you can comment on anybody's post.
  • Remember: we're all here to learn, so be friendly and helpful!

Asking for more information/clarification from the poster and a discussion are very different things. If you find yourself being led into a discussion in a comment chain, flag one of the comments and a moderator will either stop it from continuing or will move it to a new chat.

Discussions in the chat aren't immune to getting heated either. The Be Nice policy applies there as well. Chat content, just like all other content on the site is flaggable.

To address frame challenges

We don't do it here. Perhaps there should be a more visible policy to that but this meta question discusses is clearly. The general consensus was "we don't do it." The moderators of the site will be in discussion on how to formally address frame-challenge answers.

To address medical content in general on Parenting.SE

Joe covers this well in his answer. Tread carefully. If a question is not related to the aspect of acting as a parent in a situation about medical issues but rather about the medical issue itself, it is most likely off-topic for this site.

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