New University of Liverpool research, published in Pediatrics, highlights the negative influence that social media has on children’s food intake.
Current research shows celebrity endorsement and television advertising of unhealthy foods increases children’s intake of these foods. However, children are increasingly exposed to marketing through digital avenues, such as on social media, and the impact of marketing by YouTube video bloggers (vloggers) on these outcomes has, until now, not been known.
According to a recent report by Ofcom children in the UK now access social media more than ever before. Approximately 93% of 8-11-year-olds go online, 77% use YouTube and 18% have a social media account. In older children (12-15-year-olds), 99% go online, 89% use YouTube and 69% have a social media account. Both age groups watch YouTube vloggers.
PhD student Anna Coates, from the University’s Appetite and Obesity research group, conducted a study to examine the effect of social media marketing of snack foods (healthy and unhealthy), via vloggers’ Instagram pages, on children’s snack intake.
During the study 176 children, aged between 9 and 11 years, were randomly split into three equal groups and were shown artificially created, but realistic, Instagram pages of popular vloggers (each has millions of followers). One group was shown images of the vlogger with unhealthy snacks, the second group was shown images of the vlogger with healthy snacks and the third group was shown images of the vlogger with non-food products. The participants’ subsequent intake of snacks (healthy and unhealthy options) were measured.
Children in the group that viewed the unhealthy snack images consumed 32% more kcals from unhealthy snacks specifically and 26% more kcals in total (from healthy and unhealthy snacks) compared with children who saw the non-food images. There was no significant difference in total kcal intake, or healthy snack kcal intake, between children who saw the Instagram profile with healthy images and those who saw the non-food images.
Impactful and exploitative
Of the study Anna Coates, said: “These findings suggest that the marketing of unhealthy foods, via vloggers’ Instagram pages, increases children’s immediate energy intake. The results are supported by celebrity endorsement data, which show unhealthy food endorsements increase children’s unhealthy food intake, but healthy food endorsements have little or no effect on healthy food intake.
“Young people trust vloggers more than celebrities so their endorsements may be even more impactful and exploitative. Tighter restrictions are needed around the digital marketing of unhealthy foods that children are exposed to, and vloggers should not be permitted to promote unhealthy foods to vulnerable young people on social media.”
more recommended stories
Stay in touch with your emotions to reduce pandemic-induced stress
Managing stress during the pandemic
Teens diagnosed with depression show reduction in educational achievement
Loss of potential: teens diagnosed with.
Childhood connection to nature has many benefits but is not universally positive
A review finds a connection to.
Social networks can support academic success
Being friends with those who get.
Expand school digital literacy lessons to cover health technologies used by young people
Young people are accessing digital health.
Children who have difficult relationships with their mothers are clingy towards teachers
USA based researchers found that these.
Getting children to eat their greens? Both parents need to set an example
A positive example set by both.
Love matters: How parents’ love shapes children’s lives
Parents often put their own relationship.
Sitting still linked to increased risk of depression in adolescents
Young people who are inactive for.
Short, intensive training improves children’s health
Short periods of intensive training motivates.