As social media become more embedded in our society, their side effects begin to unfold one by one under the scrutiny of researchers. A study published in the Paediatrics journal suggests that their use could have an effect on the food consumption of children.
Several studies have shown in recent years the negative effects that television could have on younger generations. Seeing your favourite stars promoting a candy bar or simply being exposed to ads highlighting unhealthy foods affects young minds and alters their eating habits.
The influence of ‘vloggers’
Anna Coates and her team chose to study the impact of promotional campaigns for snacks via ‘vloggers’’ Instagram pages. In other words, influential people on Youtube who present their daily lives, like in a blog.
To do this, they divided 176 children aged 9 to 11 into three groups, and presented them with fictional ‘vlogger’ pages, consuming a healthy or unhealthy snack, or consuming nothing at all. They then controlled the participants' diet.
A question of trust
Children who saw ‘vloggers’ who consumed unhealthy snacks consumed an average of 26% more calories than those who did not see food being consumed, and 32% more calories from snacks which are bad for the health. Children who saw the consumption of balanced snacks did not show any significant differences in their eating habits. Coates claims:
These results suggest that promoting unbalanced foods via vloggers' Instagram pages increases children's immediate consumption. Young people put more trust in vloggers than in celebrities, so their support can have more impact and exploit them. More severe restrictions are needed.