How YouTubers are influencing your kids' snacking habits

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Struggling to get your kids to eat healthy snacks? Well it turns out your son or daughter's favourite YouTuber might be to blame. 

Researchers have delved often into the effects of celebrity endorsements of unhealthy food and its effect on audiences' eating patterns and obesity rates. 

Until now, little was known about the phenomenon of YouTubers - celebrities in their own right - and their effects on childrens' eating habits, but a new study by researchers from the University of Liverpool has concluded that the effects are significant, and overwhelmingly negative.

More than 170 children aged between 9 and 11 were split randomly into three groups of equal numbers, "...and were shown artificially created, but realistic, Instagram pages of popular vloggers (each has millions of followers)."

One group viewed images of a vlogger with unhealthy snacks. Another group observed images of a vlogger with healthy snacks and the third group was shown images of a vlogger with products which weren't food.

Data was then gathered, about the participants' consumption of snacks, and whether the food choices appeared ot be affected by watching the vloggers.

Here's what the researchers found:

  • The group which viewed the unhealthy food images consumed 32 perhaps more energy from unhealthy snacks, and 26 percent more energy in total from both healthy and unhealthy snacks than the children who viewed the non-food products.
  • "There was no significant difference in total [energy] intake, or healthy snack [energy] intake, between children who saw the Instagram profile with healthy images and those who saw the non-food images."

Lead study author Anna Coates said that the findings point to immediate impact on childrens' energy intake after viewing vlogger content, which is supported by past findings about other kinds of celebrity food endorsements.

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She said, "Young people trust vloggers more than celebrities so their endorsements may be even more impactful and exploitative."

She also suggested that there should be more accountability around digital marketing in vlogger environments so children are not exposed to content that influences them to make unhealthy food choices.

"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."