Source:HealthCentral.nz, 13 April 2018
Kiwi adolescents are frequently exposed to marketing of
unhealthy food choices online, according to a University of
The study reviewed two months of Facebook posts from 45 food and
beverage brands and found about two-thirds of posts had at least
one 'occasional' (read: unhealthy) food item. Researchers estimated
that some of these posts could potentially reach 10% of New Zealand
The aim of the study, published today in the New
Zealand Medical Journal, was to determine the extent, nature
and potential impact of internet-based marketing on Facebook and
YouTube. The study tracked Facebook activity over two months, and
YouTube presence over two years, of snack food, beverage and fast
Facebook and YouTube are two popular social media sites that
companies use to target young people. In 2012, 93% of New
Zealanders aged 15-24 years used the Internet, with this number
likely to have increased since.
The researchers - Stefanie Vandevijvere, Charlotte Aitken and
Professor Boyd Swinburn from the School of Population Health -
concluded that with the growth of social media marketing, new
methods need to be developed to monitor children's exposure to
unhealthy food marketing and compliance with advertising
They pointed out that in a recent report, The World Health
Organization encourages governments to acknowledge their duty to
protect children online.
"The WHO proposes the development of a rights-based framework
for the regulation of digital food marketing to children based on
the rights to participation and protection accorded to children
under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,
which recognises the duty of states to protect the rights of
children online, including their right to health."
An accompanying editorial in the NZMJ cautions that, in light of
Cambridge Analytica's unauthorised use of Facebook users' data,
it's crucial to keep an eye on social media marketing of unhealthy
foods or alcohol and tobacco.
Antonia C Lyons, Professor of Health Psychology, at Victoria
University of Wellington; Timothy McCreanor, Professor of Public
Health at Massey University and Professor Antonia Lyons, from the
School of Health at Victoria University of Wellington, maintain
that the massive audience reach of online networks means social
media marketing is "highly effective and very cheap".
"This type of highly targeted marketing encourages peer-to-peer
transmission of messages and content, enabling electronic
'word-of-mouth' viral marketing.
Such sharing of 'information' blurs the boundaries between
commercial content and private activity, they say, "making it
difficult for users to identify marketing content that often morphs
as it travels through the network".
They conclude that, "Promoting unhealthy products on social
media is an effective marketing strategy, but is ethically
problematic, particularly when it is targeted at children and young
people who are high users of social media platforms."
Results from the recent New Zealand Health Survey revealed that
one in three children in this country are either overweight or
obese. Marketing is one of the factors known to influence unhealthy
food and beverage choices.