Have your kids been snacking more than usual lately? Their screen time use could be to blame, as new research finds kids’ diets are influenced by social media. Read on to see how the two are linked.

Anna Coates, a doctoral student at the School of Psychology at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, conducted a study to determine how much a child’s diet could be affected by social media. Coates found that when kids viewed others eating, it had a major impact on their own eating habits.

The study involved 176 kids ages 9 to 11, who were divided into three groups. All the groups were shown real YouTube videos posted by popular vloggers either eating healthy foods, unhealthy foods or none at all. After watching, the kids each had 10 minutes to choose between healthy and unhealthy snack options.

Watching the vloggers eat healthy foods had no significant impact on the kids’ choices, but when the vloggers ate unhealthy foods the kids went on to consume 32 percent more calories from unhealthy snacks compared with the kids who viewed no food being eaten.

Research has long shown that marketing junk food to kids in traditional advertising can have an impact on diet, but not much research has been conducted about how social media influences diets until now. Coates says more research is still needed, but she believes restrictions should be put into place on new types of marketing, like social media.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

 

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