In Social Media Safety Messages, Pictures Will have to Match the Words, Study Finds



When the usage of social media to nudge people toward secure and healthy behaviour, it is important to verify the words match the pictures, according to a new study.

After having a look at social media posts, parents of young children were better in a position to recall safety messages such as how to put a baby safely to sleep when the images in the posts aligned with the messages in the text, the researchers found.

The study appears in the Publication of Health Communication.

“Many times, scientists and safety experts don’t seem to be involved in decisions approximately social media for health agencies and other organisations, and we end up seeing images that have nothing to do with the safety message or worse, images that contradict the guidance,” said lead writer Liz Klein, an associate professor of public health at The Ohio State University.

Take the secure sleep example, for example. The researchers found posts that advocated a bumper-free crib for baby but used an image of an infant in a crib with bumpers.

They saw posts approximately preventing head injury with bike helmets illustrated by pictures of kids without bike helmets.

“In this study, we were trying to know how much those mismatches matter — do people understand the message despite the fact that the picture is not correct? Does the picture truly matter?” Klein said.

Their answers came from research the usage of eye-tracking technology to gauge the attention young parents paid to more than a few posts, and subsequent tests to see what they reminisce about approximately the safety messages.

When the 150 parents in the study were shown a trio of posts with matched imagery and text and three other posts with mismatched visual and written messages, they spent far longer on the matched posts — 5.3 seconds, in comparison to the 3.3 seconds their eyes lingered on the mismatched posts.

Further, the matched messages gave the impression to make a difference in understanding and recall of safety messages. After accounting for differences in health literacy and social media use among participants, the researchers found that each and every second of viewing time on matched posts was once associated with a 2.8 percent increase in a safety knowledge score.

“With almost 70 percent of adults reporting use of social media, and plenty of parents the usage of social media and other internet sources to retain current on injury prevention strategies, social media is a brilliant possibility to broadcast safety and injury prevention messages,” said study co-author Lara McKenzie, a principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

“As more health organisations and public health agencies use social media to share health information with the public, the findings of our study underscore the wish to make sure that the imagery and text in social media posts are aligned,” added McKenzie.

Klein said she understands that those managing social media accounts is also drawn to images that are the most attention-grabbing. But in relation to health and safety, this study suggests that making certain the image and the text are sending the same message is more important.

“Whether you wish to have people to put their medicine up and out of reach of children, kids to wear their bike helmets, or new parents to keep in mind that babies must all the time fall asleep on their backs, alone and in a crib — that’s where matching affairs. Perhaps save the eye-grabbing stuff and the humorous posts for different purposes,” Klein said.

Klein said the findings in this study likely extend beyond child safety messaging to any number of health and safety campaigns. Then again, he added that there is more work to be done to know how to best harness the power of social media for several types of public health communication.

“We wish to pay more attention to how we communicate with the people we’re trying to influence with health and safety guidance. All of us can do a better job of thinking approximately how we use our social media accounts to contribute to better public health,” she said.

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