By Eliza Buzacott-Speer.
As Australia grapples with how to combat a childhood obesity crisis, a group of US researchers have suggested the humble emoji may hold the key to encouraging children to make healthier food decisions.
According to the Federal Government, one in four children in Australia are overweight or obese, and numerous programs have been implemented across the country to try and tackle the problem.
But a recent US study published in the journal Appetite found that adding “emolabels” to foods — similar to the smiling or frowning faces many of us use when text messaging — meant children were more likely to make healthy food decisions.
The study looked at the food choices of children aged between five and 11, who were given a brief lesson on the meaning of the emolabels before being asked to choose four food items from two aisles set up to look like a grocery store.
Half of the 12 items were labelled with smiley face stickers on nutritious options and frowning face stickers on less healthy foods, while the other half were without labels.
Greg Privitera, study leader and research chair at the University of Phoenix’s Centre for Behavioural Health Research, told the Washington Post: “The thought that came to mind was, ‘Why aren’t we involving children and empowering them to be part of the solution?'”
Dr Privitera said children lacked the health literacy — which the study described as “the ability to acquire health-related knowledge” — to make food decisions based on nutritional information.