Can watching vlogs created by peers make youth more physically active?
Teenagers have a huge influence on their peers. In social network interventions, this social influence mechanism is intentionally used to stimulate healthy behavior among young people. In such interventions, small groups of influential teenagers are asked to promote important healthy behavior among their peers. Because peers tend to copy the behavior of these influential teens, there is a good chance that they too will start behaving healthier. In a study in Frontiers in Psychology, a group of highly valued teens was asked to create vlogs about physical activity, which were then shown to their classmates and to teens unknown to them. Although this specific social network intervention did not have the intended effect, the study does provide some interesting findings that can make health campaigns more effective.
- Watching vlogs in which physical activity is promoted by peers does not make teenagers more physically active, neither when these vlogs are created by familiair, valued classmates nor by unfamiliar teens.
- Vlogs created by familiar, valued peers are evaluated more positively by teens compared to vlogs created by unfamiliar peers.
- Also, vlogs created by familiar, valued peers are more effective in changing the social norm about physical activity: after watching these vlogs, teens perceive their peers as more physically active.
- To increase teens engagement with health campaigns, organizations are advised to involve the social network of teens (for example, classmates and friends) in the campaign.
446 participants (mean age: 11, age range: 9-16, 53% female)
All participants nominated their peers on multiple questions (like “with whom do you spend time during the brakes?”). Based on these nominations, the researchers selected a small group of participants that held a central position in the class. This group of highly valued classmates was invited to create six short vlogs about physical activity. To help them with this, they first received a short instruction by a famous Dutch vlogger on how to create a good vlog.
The other participants watched the vlogs individually on a smartphone provided by the research team. They either watched the vlogs created by classmates (social network intervention) or by unfamiliar teens. A third group of participants did not watch vlogs about physical activity. The researchers measured the physical activity of the teens before, during and after the intervention by using a Fitbit® wearable physical activity tracker.
Facts and findings
- All the participating teens increased in physical activity over time, irrespective of whether they watched the vlogs created by classmates or unfamiliar teens, or did not watch any vlogs at all.
- The descriptive norm, which is the perception of how physically active your social environment is, increased after watching the vlogs created by classmates and decreased after watching the vlogs created by unfamiliar teens.
- The responses to the vlogs were more positive when the vlogs were created by classmates than by unfamiliar teens. That is, participants watched the vlogs more often and for a longer time, liked the vlogs more and felt more closely related to the vloggers when they were created by classmates compared to unfamiliar teens.