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Safety advice on social media: Do your images match your message?

Photo: damircudic/iStockphoto

Columbus, OH — Using social media to spread safety and health advice? Make sure the pictures you’re using match the message, researchers from Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital say.

The researchers showed 150 parents six social media posts on topics of safe infant sleep positions, poison prevention and bicycle safety. On three of the posts, the photos matched the accompanying safety message. On the other three, the photo didn’t match the advice. For example, one post encouraging kids’ use of bicycle helmets included pictures of children on bikes not wearing helmets.

The parents spent more time looking at the posts with the matching image and guidance – 5.3 seconds compared with 3.3 seconds. Each extra second of viewing time corresponded to a 2.8% increase in understanding of the safety messages.


“We need to pay more attention to how we communicate with the people we’re trying to influence with health and safety guidance,” Liz Klein, leady study author and an associate professor of public health at OSU, said in a press release. “All of us can do a better job of thinking about how we use our social media accounts to contribute to better public health.”

The study was published online Dec. 28 in the Journal of Health Communication.

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