If you’ve been on YouTube recently, you might have noticed that “kidfluencers” are extremely popular, with their videos garnering millions of views. These videos produced by teens and children often include various messages that promote junk food and unhealthy eating. As a nutrition and health student, you’re likely passionate about promoting the development of good health habits and eating well. With this in mind, here’s a quick overview of the situation for students taking nutrition and health courses.
How Kid Influencers on YouTube Are Promoting Junk Food to Young Viewers
Kid-targeted advertising has always been controversial, particularly considering that children are still developing their ability to distinguish persuasive messaging found in ads. While television advertising is nothing new, online advertising is quickly growing through the use of social media. The popularity of kid influencers on YouTube makes it easier for food and beverage companies to target their young demographic.
A recent study published in Pediatrics: the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics aimed to quantify the data on this topic by analyzing 418 YouTube videos—out of which 179 featured various foods and drinks. The results showcased that:
- 90% of these videos promoted unhealthy branded items (e.g. McDonalds)
- Only 4% focused on the unhealthful aspect of generic junk food items (e.g. hot dogs)
- Only 3% included healthy generic items (e.g. fruit)
- Only 2% featured healthy branded items (e.g. Yoplait)
Knowing about this data, and understanding that food and beverage companies spend over $1.8 billion per year on advertising to children, one can see how important it is to work on developing healthy eating habits at a young age. Your nutrition and health training can prepare you to become a nutrition educator to combat bad habits, giving you the knowledge you need to help individuals plan more balanced diets and integrate physical activity for a healthier lifestyle.
The Effect of Junk Food Advertising on Kids Explained for Students in Nutrition and Health Programs
It may come as no surprise that children can be easily influenced by what they see in ads. This is reflected in a study that confirms that junk food marketing directly impacts children’s eating behaviours, food preferences, food purchasing habits, and diet-related health. The same study reveals that prolonged exposure to junk food promotion can get children excited about eating unhealthy foods and, in some cases, lead to regular junk food consumption. As kids continue to eat unhealthy foods, they increase their risk of developing harmful health conditions, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes in adulthood
Kid influencers make a variety of YouTube videos, both educational and entertaining, and it can be hard to catch all instances of junk food promotion. Junk food product placement is overt in some videos, while other influencers introduce junk food more indirectly. As an example, some popular videos have YouTube celebrities conducting exciting scientific experiments, making use of candy or branded sugary snacks in the process. While these videos may look like harmless fun, it’s important to consider the detrimental side effects that children might experience as they watch—being subtly influenced to want to purchase and try the featured junk food item.
Taking nutrition and health programs will equip you with an understanding of how basic nutrition affects our bodies and future health. This will help you support clients and their families in taking the necessary measures to build healthier lifestyles.
Do you want to become a health nutrition specialist?
Contact AAPS to learn more about our nutrition diploma program in Ontario!