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Promoting healthy decisions among teens via text

Teenagers get an average of 3,339 texts a month, according to data from Nielsen consumer research group. In light of this data, researchers investigating how to best leverage this technology to educate kids on nutrition and fitness.

To better understand how healthy text messages could help improve teens' eating and exercise habits, University of Arizona researchers conducted a yearlong trial involving 177 teens to identify their preferences for content, format, style, origin, frequency and mode of delivery. Study results revealed that telling teens what to do, using phrases such as “you should" and “never," and texts introduced by the words “did you know” were unpopular. Age-relevant information, fun facts and trivia were well received. Futurity reports:

Texts the teens liked best included those that specifically referenced their age group, such as, “American girls aged 12-19 years old drink an average of 650 cans of soda a year!”

They also liked messages that were interactive, like fun quizzes; messages that were actionable, like simple recipes; and messages that included links to websites where they could learn more about a topic if desired.

The teens also appreciated the occasional fun fact not necessarily related to health – some bit of trivia they could share with their friends, like the fact that carrots were originally purple or that ears of corn have an even number of rows.

Beyond such content preferences the study showed teens didn't want to be inundated with information and said about two texts a day was sufficient. Researchers say the findings could pave the way for the development of text message-based health prevention programs geared toward teens.

Previously: Study says nearly 40 percent of American children’s diet consists of empty calories and Are sports drinks healthier than sodas? Study shows teens think so
Photo by Karin Vlietstra

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