New research from the University of Liverpool, presented at the European Congress on Obesity today (Wednesday, 23 May), 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 have more access to social media than ever before with 21% of 3-4-year-olds and 35% of 5-7-year-olds having their own tablet. In older children, 39% of 8-11-year-olds have their own smartphone and 52% have their own tablet; 83% of 12-15-year-olds have their own smartphone and 55% have their own tablet.
PhD student Anna Coates, from the University of Liverpool’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 10 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, among 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
Frequent use of social media may compromise teenage girls’ mental health by increasing exposure to bullying and reducing sleep and physical exercise
First study to examine three mechanisms.
Researchers find WhatsApp can be good for our health
Academics at Edge Hill University have.
The influence of social media and children’s food intake
New University of Liverpool research, published.
Data show no evidence that teens’ social media use predicts depression over time
Results show that social media use.
Negative experiences on social media tied to higher odds of feeling lonely
Positive interactions on social media are.
Social media use increases depression and loneliness
In the first experimental study of.
How rants on social media can come back to haunt you
UC Davis study finds that negative.
Social media help young people to explore sexuality
We need to get away from.
Social media manipulation rising globally
The manipulation of public opinion over.
Study of 800 million tweets finds distinct daily cycles in our thinking patterns
Our mode of thinking changes at.