There’s no denying the fact that a bowl of French fries and a big cheesy burger can make anyone slurp any time of the day. But we all are well aware of the health menaces associated with these junk foods. Several studies across the world have found that these processed foods lead to obesity, heart-diseases, diabetes etc. While a number of initiatives are being taken to curb the intake of junk foods, new research has found that popular child influencers are frequently promoting junk food brands on their YouTube channels. This might result in an increase in junk food consumption among kids. The study, conducted by researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health and NYU Grossman School of Medicine, was published in the journal Pediatrics.
“Kids already see several thousand food commercials on television every year, and adding these YouTube videos on top of it may make it even more difficult for parents and children to maintain a healthy diet,” said Marrie Brag, assistant professor of public health nutrition at NYU School of Global Public Health and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone.
For the study, the team of researchers picked 2019’s five most popular kid influencers on YouTube, who were aged between 3 and 14 years. The researchers then analysed a sample of 418 YouTube videos- all of which were food-related.
The results showed that nearly half of the most popular videos from kid influencers promoted food and beverages. More than 90 per cent of the products shown were unhealthy branded food, drinks, or fast-food toys, with fast food as the most frequently featured junk food, followed by candy and soda. Only a few videos featured unhealthy unbranded items like hot dogs, healthy unbranded items like fruit and healthy branded items like yoghurt brands.
“It was concerning to see that kid influencers are promoting a high volume of junk food in their YouTube videos, and that those videos are generating enormous amounts of screen time for these unhealthy products,” said Bragg.
While the researchers are yet to find which food and beverage product placements were paid endorsements in the videos, they warn that these videos can be problematic for public health and their overall eating habit. They further said that these kinds of product placements by the kid influences enable the junk food companies to directly or indirectly promote unhealthy food habits among children and their parents.
Instead, as per Braggs, “We need a digital media environment that supports healthy eating instead of discouraging it.”