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Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Child Social Media Influencers and Unhealthy Food Product Placement

Public Health
Created: 11/01/2020
Uploaded: 11/04/2020

In this study published in Pediatrics, researchers analyzed 418 YouTube videos featuring kid influencers with food and/or drinks. Researchers found that most food and/or drinks featured in these videos were branded unhealthy foods, followed next by unbranded unhealthy items, and that kid influencers generate millions of impressions on young viewers of unhealthy food and drink items through product placement. This kind of surreptitious advertising may affect younger children, who can't discern advertising content embedded in entertainment, and may impact kids' "pester power" (asking parents to purchase food and drink items they see advertised in these YouTube videos). The concern is that poor dietary choices in childhood can place kids at a greater risk of obesity later in life, since one environmental factor related to children's dietary choices is exposure to food advertising.

What can pediatricians do? According to the authors of this study, "[g]iven the enormous reach of kid influencers’ videos on YouTube, pediatricians can play a critical role in encouraging parents to limit children’s screen time on YouTube, even on channels that characterize themselves as 'child friendly' or educational. Pediatricians can also inform parents about the presence of 'marketing disguised as entertainment' on YouTube and YouTube Kids. Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a report that describes the subtle and interactive features of social media-based advertising, including undisclosed marketing of toys in YouTube influencer videos, and future American Academy of Pediatrics publications may benefit from describing the unique role of kid influencers in promoting unhealthy food and beverages."

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