Fat children do not want to be overweight. There is no in-built desire amongst youngsters to pig-out, to quaff gallons of calorie-laden fizzy pop or to sit around doing diddly-squat. If anything, children have a natural instinct to be active and to be so interested in their surroundings that they forget to eat.
There are several theories as to why there is a growing “obesity crisis” amongst children and the popular press is fond of blaming the Internet and social media in particular for encouraging children to be inactive, sitting facing their computers all day long. That might help make a snazzy headline, but the reality is that children get fat because their parents give them too much food.
Obese children do want to lose weight. Their problem is they hang out with other fat youngsters and thereby adopt the wrong behaviours in order to trim those inches. However, several studies have shown that online social media are highly effective in helping children lose the extra pounds. Now, the American Heart Association is calling for medics to use social media much more widely in helping children fight the flab.
If you look at the reasons behind this suggestion you can also see why many businesses are not doing well with social media. For a start, the impact of social media on childhood obesity only seems to work if it is integrated with everything else. Social networks have a real impact on a child’s health if what happens online is connected with what they do in the real world. Many businesses appear to have two realities – their real world one and then another virtual existence where they Tweet stuff or add items on Facebook without any integration with what they do in the rest of their business.
The research on fat children also shows that social media only really has an impact when the people leading the weight reduction programmes really understand the Internet and the way social networks actually function. Yet you can pop into many business premises, find them using social media with no real idea about how the various networks actually function.
The American Heart Association suggestion for obese children could easily be turned into a call for business leaders to make changes which will have an impact on their business. They could integrate social media with their day-to-day business activities much more closely – and they could learn more about social media and the Internet itself.
That approach works for medical professionals helping fat youngsters and it could also work for businesses too; indeed, guess what, there is plenty of data which shows that companies that have learned more about social media and integrate it into their entire business are the ones doing well, in spite of the recession.