back to article Text messaging helps kids fight the flab - study

Are you a fat teenager? Then pick up your mobile and text yourself thin, tubby - a study has concluded that texting helps kids to shed those extra pounds. For three weeks the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine asked 58 children, aged between five and 13, to cut down on sugary snacks, reduce their TV time and …

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Uh-huh

"Nonetheless, the study concluded that text messaging “may be a useful tool for self-monitoring of healthy behaviours in children”

Or, you know, you could just talk to your children instead. Did those kids noting results on paper get any kind of positive message when they were improving? What a pathetically unscientific study..

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Anonymous Coward

Shouldn't that read

positive reinforcement helps kids...

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Stop

<title goes here>

Or maybe it is just the fact that being actively encouraged motivated the fatties more than, I dont know, doing nothing...

Another pointless report that says the same thing, in a slightly different way, as a hundred others.

Grrr...

<goes off to rant at something else>

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Joke

Flashman vs Txt

Whatever happened to the good ol' fashioned way of getting kids thin through negative reinforcement; a mixture of verbal psychological impetus and physical (often percussive) persuasion techniques:

"Oi, fatty!" *smack*

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Nothing new here

Read "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini. It's an excellent and very easy to read book about non-obvious issues in psychology. I don't have my copy to hand, but one of the chapters discusses how writing down or publicly stating an opinion can make you more committed to it.

One example of this discussed in the book was during (I think) the Korean war, American prisoners were offered small rewards (such as an extra portion of rice) for writing anti-American essays. Prisoners were happy to write what they considered to be anti-American lies to get the rewards because they figured that everybody would realize the lies were written under duress. However, the act of writing the lies actually started to subtly change the viewpoints of the prisoners and many of them did form anti-American viewpoints over time.

Another example concerns the competitions run by many companies: complete the following sentence in 10 words or less "I love <name-of-product> because...". The goal of these competitions is to target lots of people who think "I don't like this product but I'll write something positive about it to have a chance of winning". Just the act of writing something positive about the product will cause some of those people to start liking the product.

By the way, the change in attitude brought about by writing a message can be brought about in other ways too, such as standing up in a roomful of people and voicing a message that you don't actually believe. The important thing is that you carry out an act (such as writing or speaking) that apparently shows commitment to the message *even* *if* you don't actually believe in the message that you are communicating. Such acts can change your viewpoint.

So, back to this report on the texting and obesity study. By texting a message of your progress, the person is carrying out an act of commitment. This makes the person more committed to achieve the weight-loss goal. The "Influence" book discusses how Weight Watchers uses a similar tactic to reinforce commitment of its members. So this scientific study appears to have been carried out by people who were unaware of prior work in this area. The researchers haven't found anything new; they have just confirmed something that was already known.

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Well yes...

... or maybe it's the simple act of a little positive reinforcement.

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Boffin

Bad science?

Where to start?

1) 19.3(recurring) in each group is a pretty small sample.

2) Aged between 5 & 13. Was there an equal spread of age ranges in each group, or were all the texters in a different age range (were a group of 5year olds expected to text their weight to researchers?)

3) "text messaging “may be a useful tool for self-monitoring of healthy behaviours in children”" - Erm how? 'May be' is pretty crap science. Who funded this research? I'll wager somewhere a PR company for a major Mobile operator might be involved.

Boffin icon because I doubt Jennifer Shapiro's boffinry creds.

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J
Joke

Maybe...

Maybe it's because while their hands are busy texting they can't stuff their faces with the delicious junk stuff...

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What about RSI?

"Although it might keep your fingers in shape."

I have to dispute that claim. Texting too many times will lead you to end up with dodgy fingers and thumbs and they will end up out of normal shape!

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