YouTube Personalities May Be Pitching Your Child Junk Food

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
January 11, 2021

YouTube videos posted by teens and parents are a vehicle for advertising, and nearly 43 percent of advertisers are promoting unhealthy food or drink products to your kids

Junk food isn’t going to help your child maintain a healthy weight.

But a cheeseburger, fries, and milkshake may seem a normal meal to your child if it often shows up in YouTube videos by and for kids.

More than 80 percent of parents with a child younger than 12 years old allow their child to watch YouTube, and 35 percent of parents report that their kid watches YouTube regularly, according to researchers at New York University, who studied how many “kid influencer” videos included ads for junk food.

Often the videos are posted by parents, who film small kids having birthday parties or enjoying a fun science experiment. Sometimes teens post the videos. Companies pay the video-posters to promote their food either before or during the video. One 8-year-old earned $26 million this way in 2019.


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Perfect storm for encouraging poor nutrition

In the study, researchers noted the five most popular kid influencers on YouTube in 2019 – their ages ranged from 3 to 14 years old — and analyzed a sample of 418 videos. Nearly 43 percent promoted food or drink products. Fast food was featured most often, followed by candy, and soda. Only a few videos featured unbranded items or healthy food like an apple.

The videos featuring junk food and drink products were viewed more than 1 billion times in 2019.

"It's a perfect storm for encouraging poor nutrition — research shows that people trust influencers because they appear to be 'everyday people,' and when you see these kid influencers eating certain foods, it doesn't necessarily look like advertising. But it is advertising, and numerous studies have shown that children who see food ads consume more calories than children who see non-food ads, which is why the National Academy of Medicine and World Health Organization identify food marketing as a major driver of childhood obesity," said Marie Bragg, assistant professor of public health nutrition at NYU School of Global Public Health.

What we can do to keep kids thin

Obesity is a common problem. Among 6- to 11-year-olds in the United States, 18.4 percent are obese. That portion jumps to more than a fifth of Americans ages 12 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Eating high-calorie, low-nutrient food and drinks, not getting enough physical activity, and spending lots of time sitting watching television or looking at a phone — in short, many kids’ lives — can make anyone too heavy.

Eating healthy food and being active will keep your child at a healthy weight and help prevent type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease

To help your children get (or stay) thin:

  • Give them water and skim or low-fat milk instead of soda, juice, and sports drinks.
  • Give them vegetables and fruit for snacks.
  • Don't keep junk food in the house.
  • Eat at home.
  • Three meals and two snacks a day are plenty.
  • Make small changes.
  • Aim for regular sleep hours (no phones or TV in bed before bed).
  • Encourage them to play sports or other get exercise for an hour a day.


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January 11, 2021

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN