After reviewing 27 top-ranking food and beverage brand pages on Facebook, a team of researchers from the University of Sydney found that junk food brands are using social media to target young people.
“Adolescents and young people are engaging with brands like Dominos, Slurpee and Skittles on Facebook on a near-daily basis,” lead author Dr. Becky Freeman said in a statement.
When kids actively engage with junk food brands via social media, researchers say the ripple effect can be huge.
“Any activity that users engage with on brand pages can appear in the news feeds of their friends, so marketing messages quickly amplify across social networks,” Freeman said in the statement.
For the study, which focused on Australian Facebook users, Freeman and her team analyzed each brand page based on its marketing techniques, follower engagement, and marketing reach of messages that were posted. The most effective marketing strategies involved competitions and giveaways, researchers say.
The University of Sydney study isn’t the first to suggest a negative link between social media use and youngsters. According to a 2011 Pew Center survey, 15 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 reported having been harassed on a social networking site.
And teens don’t stand alone. A 2014 report in Psychology Today suggests that Facebook poses a number of mental healthy threats. Jealousy, envy, and feelings of not being good enough are all on the list. Psychology Today also reports that popular social media sites can be highly addictive. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) now includes sections to gauge Internet addiction.
The new University of Sydney study now points to a potential link between social media and childhood obesity.
On the flip side, some experts say that Facebook might have positive effects on self-esteem and behavior. According to a 2013 University of Wisconsin-Madison study, when people spend five minutes looking at their own Facebook profiles, they experience a notable self-esteem boost.