SALT LAKE CITY ― Viewing funny pictures on the internet can lead to teenage obesity? What do you meme?
Researchers from Loughborough University recently wrote a letter to members of the British Parliament in which they claimed that memes normalize “unhealthy behaviors” and could lead to teenage obesity among other things.
"Internet memes are generally viewed as entertaining but they also represent a body of cultural practice that does not account for the specific needs and rights of teenagers," the researchers said in the letter.
Memes about “flexible dieting” or ones that encourage unhealthy eating habits could be damaging to a demographic that increasingly relies on the internet to be the main source of health information.
One meme that has researchers worried shows "a human-like body from pictures of pizzas and hamburgers, with frankfurters used for limbs and a smiley-faced potato for a face," according to CNN.
As the United Kingdom is currently going through an obesity crisis, the academic experts say this information should not be taken lightly.
According to CNN, the researchers' letter was sent to a committee analyzing the effects of social media use on young people's health, which is a topic that the researchers at Loughborough agree is in need of further exploration.Comment on this story
“[It] is necessary to better understand what health knowledge and health messages young teenagers access/acquire on social media and how they respond,” they wrote. “This is especially vital given evidence that social media is critical to 13-16-year-olds’ well-being.”
The authors suggested that memes not only normalize unhealthy eating habits, but they can encourage cyberbullying, body shaming and exhibiting apathetic tendencies, according to The Hill.
Therefore, it is important for teenagers to assess the underlying messages contained in the memes they view before they accept them as entertainment.
Read more: The full extent of their research and findings can be found here.