YouTube’s kid influencers are marketing junk food

Kid influencers on YouTube are racking up billions of page views, marketing junk food and sugary beverages to children, says a new study published in Pediatrics (October). Researchers analysed videos posted by the five most-watched kid influencers aged 3-14 years on YouTube in 2019 and found 179 of the 419 videos studied featured foods and beverage with 90 percent of posts endorsing unhealthy fast/junk food.

According to study author Marie Bragg, an assistant professor of public health nutrition with joint appointments at New York University’s School of Global Public Health and Langone Medical Center, YouTube’s most popular under-18 hosts frequently promote such products directly, and children are often receptive to the message. “It’s a perfect storm for encouraging poor nutrition — research shows that people trust influencers because they appear to be ‘everyday people,’ and when you see these kid influencers eating junk foods, it doesn’t necessarily look like advertising. But it is advertising, and numerous studies have shown that children who see food ads consume more calories than children who don’t see them. This is why the National Academy of Medicine and World Health Organisation identify food marketing as a major driver of childhood obesity,” says Bragg.

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