Promoting dental hygiene to children: comparing traditional and interactive media following threat appeals

Year of publication: 2012
Author(s): Panic K.; Cauberghe V. & De Pelsmacker P.
Appeared in: Journal of Health Communication (in press)


Until now, social marketing campaigns mainly targeted children using traditional media. However, little is known about the effectiveness of computer games to communicate health related information to children. This study compares the impact of an interactive game as a medium to provide health information and improve children’s dietary habits to the impact of more traditional media. Using a 2 x 3 between subject factorial design with 190 children (7-to-9 years old), this study investigates the effect of threat messages (weak vs. strong) concerning dental hygiene on behavioral outcome (snack choice), and how this effect is moderated by the type of medium used to communicate subsequent health information after the threat appeal (computer game, information brochure, narrative story). Results show a positive significant effect of perceived threat on children’s adaptive behavior. However, this effect only remains significant when afterwards, children are exposed to a narrative health-related story. When children play a game or read a brochure, they need to devote more attention to process this content, distracting them from the original threat message. In sum, when a threat message is followed by additional health information, the medium through which this information is presented influences the effectiveness of the preceding threat message

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