Images should match words in social media security messages: study


When using social media to turn people towards safe and healthy behavior, a new study shows that words need to fit into images.

After seeing Social media Posts, parents of young children were able to recall security messages such as how a child should sleep safely, when the images in the posts were aligned with the messages in the text, the researchers found.

The study appears in the Journal of Health Communication.

“Most of the time, scientists and security professionals do not participate in decisions about social media for health agencies and other organizations, and end up looking at images that have nothing to do with the safety message or worse, contradictory guidelines,” said Liz Klein, associate professor of public health at The Ohio State University.

Take, for example, the example of safe sleep. Researchers found posts indicating a bumper-free crib for the baby, but used a picture of the baby in a crib with bumpers.

They looked at posts about preventing head injury with bike helmets as illustrated by pictures of children without bike helmets.

“In this study, we’re trying to understand how important that imbalance is – do people understand the message even though the image is not correct? Is the image really important?” Said Clean.

Their answers came from research done using eye-tracking technology to assess the attention young parents paid to various posts and subsequent tests to see what they remembered about security messages.

When the 150 parents in the study were shown a trio of posts with matching imagery and text and three other posts with mismatched visual and written messages, they spent more time on the matching posts – 5.3 seconds, with their eyes compared to 3.3 seconds.

Furthermore, matched messages showed a difference in understanding and remembering security messages. After differences in health literacy and social media usage among participants, the researchers found that the time spent every second looking at matched posts was associated with a 2.8 percent increase in a security cognitive score.

“Nearly 70 percent of adults report using social media, and most parents use social media and other Internet resources to stay current on injury prevention strategies, a great opportunity to spread social media safety and injury prevention messages,” said co-author Laura McKenzie, Nationwide in Columbus. Lead researcher at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Children’s Hospital.

“As more and more health organizations and public health organizations are using social media to share health information with the public, the results of our study underscore the need to see that imagery and text in social media posts are aligned,” McKenzie said.

Klein said she understands that those who maintain social media accounts are more likely to be drawn to attention-grabbing images. This study suggests that when it comes to health and safety, it is important to make sure that the image and text are sending the same message.

“If you want people to make their medicine available to children, children should wear their bike helmets, or new parents should always remember that children should sleep in the back, alone and in the crib – things that fit right in there can” save visible items and ridiculous posts for various purposes, “Klein said.

Klein said the findings of the study could extend to more health and safety campaigns than just child safety messages. However, he said more work needs to be done to understand how to best utilize the power of social media for different types of public health communication.

“We need to pay more attention to how we communicate with people who are trying to influence us with health and safety guidance. We can all do a good job of thinking about how we can use our social media accounts to contribute to better public health,” she said.


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