Parents still primary source of health advice for young teens

The digital generation may be plugged in, but when it comes to getting advice on health and nutrition, Mom and Dad are still the prime resource. As many as 63 per cent of teens said when they have questions about health and nutrition, they rely on their parents/guardians for information, according to a new study on Teen Health Perceptions from the Scarborough Kids Internet Panel (SKIP), www.scarborough.com/freestudies.php. In addition, teens place a value on credible information sources when they do turn to the Internet for health information and health-related purchases.

Not surprisingly, age plays a role. The younger the teen the more likely they are to seek counsel from their parents. Sixty-eight per cent of 13-15 year-olds cite their parents as the source they turn to for health and nutrition questions, vs 45 per cent of 16-17 year olds. By age 16, however, the Internet trumps parents as the source for health information. Fifty eight per cent of teens ages 16 and up go online for health information, vs 45 per cent of those ages 15 and under.

The study implies that if you want to reach teens with health and nutrition information, make sure you don't discount the parents. "The SKIP study shows that despite the digital age in which we live, teens still turn to their parents for advice. Healthcare social marketing efforts can have greater impact if parents are targeted along with teens," said Steve Seraita, executive vice president, Scarborough Research. "However, the Internet is very influential too, and should be a key element inany comprehensive teen-marketing program."

The study notes the importance of credible information, especially when considering teens as future customers. Fifty-six per cent of teens indicated 'informative websites' were very or somewhat important to their purchase decision. Coach recommendation (54 percent) and medical website recommendation, such as WebMD or MayoClinic.com (46 per cent) are other leading sources teens rely upon for information when making purchases such as dietary supplements and vitamins.

Another important finding was the role teens place in health lifestyles. Almost all (92 per cent) say health and a healthy lifestyle is 'extremely or somewhat important' in their lives. In fact, the study found that the majority of teens give themselves good health grades. Seventy-six per cent of teens give themselves B- or higher on their 'healthy report card.'

Overall, boys give themselves better health grades than do girls, and 13-15 year olds give themselves a better grade than 16 year olds. Also, as the importance of healthy lifestyle increases so do grades. Teens feel nutrition and exercise are the two pillars of a healthy lifestyle.

The SKIP study took place from December 30, 2008 through January 10, 2009, and involved a panel of 1,800 respondents between ages 13 and 17. The study also looked at teen perceptions and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, and what role social networking plays in seeking health information. Visit www.scarborough.com/skip.htm to learn moreabout this Scarborough Research service.

Total youth marketing for reported brands and per cent of total marketing, by food category, ranked by youth spending

Food category

Marketing that meets youth criteria ($1,000)

Total marketing ($1,000)

Per cent of total marketing meeting youth 2-17 criteria

Carbonated beverages

492,495

3,186,588

15.5

Restaurant foods

293,645

2,177,306

13.5

Breakfast cereal

236,553

792,042

29.9

Juice & noncarbonated beverages

146,731

1,252,022

11.7

Snack foods

138,713

852,342

16.3

Candy/Frozen desserts

117,694

456,677

25.8

Prepared foods & meals

64,283

434,978

14.8

Baked goods

62,549

153,393

40.8

Dairy products

54,475

255,697

21.3

Fruits & vegetables

11,463

46,769

24.5

TOTAL

1,618,600

9,607,815

16.8

Note: Youth 2-17 marketing includes all marketing that meets either the Child 2-11 criteria or the Teen 12-17 criteria, without duplication.
Source: Federal Trade Commission, 2008

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