Young people are bombarded by unhealthy food ads on social media
Young people see 168 unhealthy food ads through social media in a week; that is 17 promotions for food and drink every hour they are online. And unlike passively watching a television commercial, these ads are especially devious. They look like they are endorsed by peers in their social network or from other social media communities or celebrities.
The study, led by Professor Bridget Kelly, from the University of Wollongong, looked at food and beverage marketing to almost 100 teenagers. Professor Kelly studied three days of teenagers using social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. Most food and drinks that were marketed were high in salt, fat, and sugar. Unhealthy foods and beverages were promoted 50 times more than healthier products.
The study showed policies to protect children from unhealthy food marketing must cover paid advertising and paid content in posts from online communities, influencers, and celebrities.
Promotions through social media are targeted and difficult to monitor. With social media forming an important aspect of teenagers’ lives, comprehensive regulation should ensure they are not targeted with unhealthy food and drink marketing through social media.
Kelly B, Bosward R, Freeman B. Australian Children’s Exposure to, and Engagement With, Web-Based Marketing of Food and Drink Brands: Cross-sectional Observational Study. J Med Internet Res 2021;23(7):e28144 doi: 10.2196/28144