Twitter and Facebook Can Get Across a Healthy MessageBy Claire Al-Aufi on May 12, 2013@hivehealthmedia
Teenagers with a weight or lifestyle problem can be helped to change behavior through social media. Parents and counsellors, using the modern technology of communication, can reinforce good messages and make health interventions more successful.
Evidence from a social study explained in a statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) shows that social media like Facebook can be another channel to support youngsters in their battle to control their weight.
The statement itself is of course online, in the journal ‘Circulation’ and says:
“Online communication and social media are an increasing part of our lives and our overall social network of family, friends and peers. Healthcare providers should embrace its potential as a tool for promoting healthy behavioral change.”
The meta research reviewed Internet supported programs to help young people to lose weight, do more exercise and change their diet for the healthier options. All of the studies analysed seem to show that when online intervention is used in a targeted way the successful outcomes are greater.
The senior cardiologists at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina wrote:
“The studies we looked at suggest that more parental involvement and more interaction with counselors and peers was associated with greater success rates for overweight children and teens who participated in an online intervention.”
Some of the key factors that seemed to improve success rates were:
- whole family involvement and support of the intervention
- a high level of interpersonal communication and reinforcement through a counselor or support group, and
- the number of times the young people returned to the online programs.
‘Birds of a feather stick together’ but even more telling is the fact that individuals within a peer group behave similarly and reinforce behavior ‘norms’. Thus fat kids tend toward others fat kids and do the same things and make obesity socially OK. “Athletes tend to hang out with athletes, and overweight kids hang out together so they reinforce each other’s eating habits or preferences for recreational activities”. And this is also true in the social media world.
“So if you develop a network of kids who are overweight, you can have an impact on all of them — in the real world and online — because if one starts making healthy changes, the others will be influenced to do so as well.
Teenagers are texting and using Facebook and other social media as their primary communication with their peers, and we need to find out what factors can be incorporated into social media that will increase the effectiveness of these interventions to initiate and maintain weight loss in kids and adolescents”.
So if you want to help your kids lead a healthier lifestyle, get into social media. Make a connection with counsellors and medics and prepare the messages you need to send and the links you need to make. It will have the added benefit of giving you understanding of the dangers online and how to prevent things like cyber bullying, ‘sexting’, and sexual grooming.