YOUNG YOUTUBE INFLUENCERS ARE INCREASINGLY PUSHING JUNK FOOD TO FOLLOWERS

Top YouTube influencers have millions of followers and make thousands of dollars to match. Many advertisers have found that utilizing these influencers to get the word out about their products is nothing less than the perfect advertising medium. From clothes, to shoes, to jewelry, vitamins, and more, influencers are marketing it all, including junk food according to a recent study. 

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According to the new study published in the journal Pediatrics, popular YouTubers are including product placement in their videos of unhealthy foods, subliminally, and sometimes not, marketing the junk food to their peers.

“We should approach YouTube influencer videos with skepticism, even with videos that seem to be educational or kid-friendly,” said senior 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, said in an interview for an article with CNN.

To aid them in their research, researchers studied videos of the top five most-watched influencers on YouTube in 2019 who were between the ages of three and 14-years-old. Of the 418 videos that fell within the study, researchers noted that 179 of the videos featured unhealthy food and drink 90% of the time.

“This kind of marketing is uncharted territory for families and researchers,” Bragg said in the interview. Parents “may think they’re setting their kids down to watch another kid play in their backyard,” not children promoting Chicken McNuggets for a fee.

And of course, as we have all been quarantined as a result of the Coronavirus, screen time has increased to occupy children while parents are busy with work and other activities, which is one fact that these advertisers have capitalized upon.
 
“Child exposure to unhealthy food, beverage, and other content on YouTube needs to be regulated,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on digital advertising to children, via email, as she was not involved in the study. “‘Host-selling’ — the practice of trusted characters promoting products within their own videos — needs to stop on YouTube, because it’s not allowed on TV.”
 
According to the CNN article, a YouTube spokesperson noted that the company has invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app, which does not allow paid promotional content and has clear guidelines that restrict categories such as food and beverage from advertising on the app. And of course, they also pointed out that the the terms of service for the YouTube app, in general, state that children should obtain permission from a parent or guardian before using the app. 
 
 
How do you weigh-in? Do you think that it is okay for influencers to market, whether directly or through product placement, junk food to their viewers? Sound-off below, we want to hear from you.
Tiffany Silva

Tiffany Silva

Writer and Editor

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