The Last Sin of Influencers: They Push Children Towards Unhealthy Food

One of the issues that are being monitored and analyzed more in recent times is the impact that advertising messages have on children and their health.

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One of the issues that are being monitored and analyzed more in recent times is the impact that advertising messages have on children and their health. The chains of fast food and the companies of soft drinks and other sugary drinks have seen how in the last years their publicity is watched with magnifying glass and how steps are taken to stop the impact that their messages have. Some studies have established links between the messages children receive and their eating habits and have supported the idea that advertising makes children eat more and in a less healthy way.

The list of elements that must be taken into account in this situation should be added to the influencers. For children and young people, the traditional channels of information no longer work and no longer connect with them as do the stars of social networks, especially YouTube.

You just have to stumble upon an event in which some of these social celebrities are present to see how this happens. A few weeks ago, for example, in a bookstore in a medium-sized city there were children and more children waiting for their turn to sign a book. When it was discovered who were at the signatures table it was seen that they were two other children: they were emerging stars of YouTube.

Children listen to what influencers of all ages tell them and what they recommend. Therefore, the attention on the things that impact on them and that have an echo in what they do has to begin to go through this scenario, also with regard to food and health.

A study, just published in the journal Pediatrics, has just established a link between consumption of junk food and influencers. Or, as ruthlessly titled in MarketWatch, how social media influencers are making children obese.

What the study says

The study has used as a sample a group of British children between 9 and 11 years old and has used as content elements to see what happened what two influential twentysomethings, YouTube stars that entered the list of the 10 most popular vloggers among the British child population.

The participating children had to see images of the influencers holding healthy food, like fruit; Unhealthy snacks, such as chocolate cookies; or nothing. After seeing the influencers with these images (which were associated with groups of children in a random way), they analyzed what they ate. The impact of the images showed that the children let themselves be convinced by the influencers when they have unhealthy food and therefore act as a speaker of it. Children who had seen influencers with these types of products consumed an average of 91 calories more than those who had not seen them.

The study recalls, from those data, one who had analyzed the impact of seeing advertisements for junk food on television and had determined that the children who ate ate more later. The impact of influencer with healthy products was, in addition and returning to British study, null.

The study data are very relevant for several points. On the one hand, children rely more on influencers than they do on traditional media and even on the usual celebrities. On the other hand, influencers already do advertising campaigns for food. A 2013 study had already pointed out that when a celebrity recommended a meal the children ended up eating it more.

Given that marketing with influencers is still a Wild West with unclear rules and in which the rules are not met very well or there is not one that is really efficient in that environment, the publicity that children receive through these channels are much less controlled than they can receive through television or traditional media. Its impact, therefore, would not have barriers.