Study highlights influence social media has on children’s food intake

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WASHINGTON DC: A new study now highlights the negative influence that social networks have on children’s food intake.

The new research of the University of Liverpool, published in Pediatrics, shows the endorsement of celebrities and television advertising of unhealthy foods increases the intake of these foods in children. However, children are increasingly exposed to marketing through digital channels, such as social networks, and the impact of the marketing of YouTube video bloggers (vloggers) on these results has not been known until now.

According to the new Ofcom report, children in the UK now access social networks more than ever. Approximately 93 percent of children ages 8 to 11 connect to the Internet, 77 percent use YouTube, and 18 percent have an account on social media. In older children (12 to 15 years of age), 99% connect to the Internet, 89% use YouTube and 69% have an account on social networks. 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 the marketing on social networks of snacks (healthy and unhealthy), through the Instagram pages of vloggers, in the intake of children’s snacks.

During the study, 176 children, ages 9 to 11, were randomly divided into three equal groups and shown Instagram pages of popular vloggers created artificially, but realistically (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 snack intake (healthy and unhealthy options) was measured.

The children in the group who saw the images of unhealthy snacks consumed 32% more kcals of unhealthy snacks specifically and 26% more total kcals (of healthy and unhealthy snacks) compared to the children who saw the images of non-healthy snacks. foods. There were no significant differences in the total kcal intake, or the intake of kcal healthy snacks, between the children who saw the Instagram profile with healthy images and those who saw the non-food images.

Speaking about the study, Anna Coates said: “These findings suggest that the marketing of unhealthy foods, through the vlogger Instagram pages, increases children’s immediate energy intake.” The results are supported by supporting data. of celebrities, who show that unhealthy food endorsements increase children’s unhealthy food intake, but endorsements of healthy foods have little or no effect on the intake of healthy foods. ”

In addition, Coates added: “Young people trust vloggers more than celebrities, so their backups can be even more shocking and exploitative. “Strict restrictions are needed around the digital marketing of unhealthy foods to which children are exposed, and vloggers should not be allowed to promote unhealthy foods among vulnerable young people on social media.”