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How much is social media impacting what your child wants to eat?

A recent study aims to find out just how much impact social media could have on a child's food choices. It looked at nearly 200 kids between the ages of 9 and 11.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every parent expects that, at some point, their child will ask for a snack or meal they saw in an ad. 

A recent study aims to find out just how much impact social media could have on a child's food choices. 

“The advertisements have a lot of impact on the kids," Doctor Kate Eshleman with Cleveland Clinic Children’s said. "They see it and they want it. So, parents have to be prepared to limit those things in the home.”

Eshleman did not take part in the study but says it probably comes as no surprise that advertisements are very persuasive. ’

The study looked at nearly 200 children between the ages of 9 and 11. 

Children were randomly assigned to view different profiles of social media influencers with healthy snacks, unhealthy snacks or non-food products. 

Researchers found the kids who viewed social media posts with unhealthy snacks ate more calories and had significantly increased the intake of unhealthy foods than the children who viewed healthy snacks or non-food items. 

However, the children who viewed the healthy snacks were not compelled to eat more healthy foods.

Eshleman said avoiding pitfalls of social media marketing comes down to communicating with your child about healthy choices and which food items should be in the home and which should not.

She said parents should always know what their children are watching, so they can talk about the content they are viewing. 

“In general, it’s always very important for parents to know what their kids are watching," Eshleman said. "And that includes the ads. You want to know why a child is asking about this, or why they’re talking about this, and the best way to understand those things is to be aware of what they’re watching."

Eshleman said the study results don't mean you shouldn't let your kids look at online content, just that you should make sure they're doing it in plain view like on a computer you can see, not on a handheld device like a phone. 

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