Guest column: Hurting our kids’ health one social media post at a time

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By Monique Potvin Kent

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We’re risking our youngsters’s well being by leaving social media out of deliberate federal rules to restrict advertising of unhealthy meals and drinks.

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“inform me ur Halloween costume”

This tweet was posted on Halloween by certainly one of Canada’s largest fast-food chains to their greater than 168,000 Twitter followers. It was a follow-up to a tweet a couple of particular meal deal for youths.

Given its type, spelling and request, what age group do you assume it’s concentrating on? There’s just one reply after all – Canada’s youth.

Such posts usually are not one-offs on a preferred youngsters’s vacation. Our new research of Canadian social media in 2020 presents some alarming statistics.

The highest 40 food and drinks manufacturers in meals classes incessantly focused to youngsters and adolescents in Canada tweeted a complete of 30,294 instances (greater than 80 per day on common) with their tweets being seen an estimated 12.5 billion instances. Greater than 99 per cent of those social media posts have been from main fast-food eating places.

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For those who assume children aren’t amongst that social media viewers, contemplate some analysis has proven that over 40 per cent of Canadian youngsters beneath the age of 4 have entry to a smartphone — and by age 15 the speed is 80 per cent.

As for utilizing social media, a 2015 report discovered one-third of youngsters in grades 4 to six reported having a Fb account, regardless of age restrictions on the web site. And 44 per cent of Ontario youngsters reported utilizing social media two to 4 hours a day. One other 20 per cent reported utilizing social media for 5 or extra hours per day.

These numbers might have really elevated because the analysis was performed, notably because the pandemic drove everybody to their digital units.

Social media advertising campaigns rely closely on encouraging individuals to create and share posts about manufacturers with their networks via hashtags, competitions and different interactive options. That is known as user-generated content material and it’s particularly influential as a result of messages come from trusted associates, household or position fashions.

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In our research, funded by Coronary heart & Stroke, we present in only one 12 months, the highest 40 meals and beverage manufacturers in Canada have been talked about in user-generated content material 16.9 million instances in Canada on Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr and YouTube.

Tweets alone concerning the high 40 manufacturers have been doubtlessly seen an estimated 491 billion instances, with fast-food eating places dominating, adopted by sugary drink manufacturers.

The inescapable conclusion is our youngsters are being bombarded day by day with enticements to eat unhealthy meals and drinks.

Many children are succumbing to the temptation, resulting in poor dietary consumption, well being points now and later in life and shortened life spans. The ubiquity of unhealthy meals advertising on social media is hurting our youngsters and including to the strains on our well being system.

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The present “wild west” of social media advertising of unhealthy meals and drinks must be reined in as half the federal authorities’s deliberate new rules proscribing advertising of such merchandise to youngsters beneath 13 years previous.

Quebec has had such restrictions in place for youngsters beneath 13 since 1980.

The enactment of those restrictions is lengthy overdue, but when social media is just not included the rules will lose a really giant a part of their effectiveness. Permitting such a loophole could also be exploited by trade and onslaught of selling on social media might really improve in consequence.

Youth are a captive viewers on social media. The meals and beverage trade is aware of this and are already devoting a big a part of advertising expenditures to internet advertising.

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We all know from constructive experiences in different jurisdictions, together with Quebec, restrictions on promoting to youngsters works. However it’s important that rules are complete or the advertising bombardment will proceed.

The federal authorities introduced the Wholesome Consuming Technique as certainly one of its key commitments quickly after it took workplace in 2015, however we’re nonetheless ready for these very important restrictions on unhealthy meals advertising to be enacted.

Since that point, complete vastly in style social media platforms have been born and now attain thousands and thousands of Canadians on high of the already in style platforms included on this analysis.

We urgently want enactment of those general restrictions — they usually should embrace social media.

Monique Potvin Kent is an affiliate professor within the College of Ottawa’s Faculty of Epidemiology and Public Well being and program director of Grasp of Public Well being program.


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