There are a lot of good things about the internet – this website for example!
But a recent study suggests that spending too much time on social networking sites such as Facebook could be creating the next generation of couch potatoes!
The research was conducted by the University of Ulster, and the findings presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology in Liverpool.
The study involved 350 students at the University who completed an online survey that measured social networking activity and levels of physical activity. The results showed that most students on average used social media such as Facebook and Twitter for one hour per day. When it came to levels of physical activity, the figures were actually pretty good: 52.8 percent of the students were classed as moderately active, 33.4 percent were highly active, and only about 12.7 percent of the students fell into the low physical activity category. About one-quarter of the students took part in team sports. So, on the surface that does not seem that social networking was interfering with physical activity, at least not for the majority of the students.
However, Dr Wendy Cousins, one of the lead researchers on the study said, “Time is a finite resource, so time spent in social networking must come at the expense of other activities. Our study suggests that physical activity may be one of those activities.”
About a quarter of those who took part in the survey agreed with her, and said in the survey that they believed online social networking prevented them from taking part in physical activity.
Cousins concluded, “Our findings are intriguing but we have not conclusively demonstrated that social networking causes lower levels of physical activity. We will need to carry out more research to see if it really is a case of Facebook makes you fat rather than Twitter makes you fitter.”
Social Networking and Childhood Obesity
Cousin’s study was done in 2015. Fast forward a few years to a more recent study, this one from this year, and these researchers found a definite connection between social media and the influence it can have on food choices.
This study, also done in the UK found that children who see social media influencers who promote unhealthy food are more likely to adopt bad diets.
Researchers from the New University of Liverpool in the U.K. showed three groups of children, 9 to 11 years old, fabricated Instagram pages of real social media influencers with more than 1 million followers. One group was shown images of the social media influencer with unhealthy snacks such as chocolate cookies, another group was shown the influencer with healthy snacks such as bananas, and the third was shown the influencer with non-food items such as sneakers.
Children who were shown images of unhealthy snacks consumed 32 percent more calories compared with the other children – about an extra 90 calories a day.
“Clearly an extra 90 calories per day will contribute to excess weight gain,” Muth told USA TODAY. “But more than that, unhealthy snacks are high in sugar and salt, which we know has long-term negative impact on overall health, contributing to diabetes and heart disease.”
Kids in the healthy-food and non-food groups had no significant change in diet.
“Tighter restrictions are needed around the digital marketing of unhealthy foods that children are exposed to, and vloggers should not be permitted to promote unhealthy foods to vulnerable young people on social media,” study author Anna Coates said in a statement.
And also, maybe try exposing your kids (and fellow parents!) to websites that teach healthy eating habits, like this one!