Media sites including Facebook may be to blame for the increased consumption of junk food by teens and young adults.
According to a new study from the University of Sydney in Australia, social media sites could be the perfect place to market unhealthy foods to the young people who spend all their free time logged in.
Concerns about the marketing of junk food to kids are nothing new to parents, nutritionists and health experts, who are often critical of the ways campaigns directly target and ultimately entice a young market.
Last year, the World Health Organization called for more increased interventions regarding the marketing of foods high in sugar. Salt and trans fats to young people as a way to ensure they have a better chance of learning healthier habits in adulthood.
But as both Facebook and Twitter expand to include business profiles alongside those of friends and families, marketing tweets and advertorial posts provide a new way to market products to younger audiences on a playing field that’s completely familiar.
The team analyzed the Facebook pages of 27 top food and beverage companies including Subway, Slurpee and Coca-Cola, targeting marketing techniques and messages as well as how those companies engaged followers.
“By using the interactive and social aspects of Facebook to market products, energy-dense and nutrient-poor food brands capitalize on users’ social networks and magnify the reach and personal relevance of their marketing messages,” wrote the team, led by Becky Freeman, PhD. “In terms of health policy, much of the current work to limit exposure to advertising is focused on restricting advertisements during children’s television programs and viewing hours. Our study shows that this narrow focus is likely to miss large amounts of online advertising aimed at adolescents.”