Youth’s social network structures and peer influences; study protocol MyMovez project–Phase I

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Youth are an important target group for social network interventions, because they are particularly susceptible to the adaptation of healthy and unhealthy habits and behaviors of others. They are surrounded by ‘social influence agents’ (i.e., role models such as family, friends and peers) that co-determine their dietary intake and physical activity. However, there is a lack of systematic and comprehensive research on the implementation of a social network approach in health campaigns. The MyMovez research project aims to fill this gap by developing a method for effective social network campaign implementation. This protocol paper describes the design and methods of Phase I of the MyMovez project, aiming to unravel youth’s social network structures in combination with individual, psychosocial, and environmental factors related to energy intake and expenditure. In addition, the Wearable Lab is developed to enable an attractive and state-of-the-art way of collecting data and online campaign implementation via social networks. Phase I of the MyMovez project consists of a large-scale cross-sequential cohort study (N = 953; 8-12 and 12-15 y/o). In five waves during a 3-year period (2016-2018), data are collected about youth’s social network exposure, media consumption, socialization experiences, psychological determinants of behavior, physical environment, dietary intake (snacking and drinking behavior) and physical activity using the Wearable Lab. The Wearable Lab exists of a smartphone-based research application (app) connected to an activity tracking bracelet, that is developed throughout the duration of the project. It generates peer- and self-reported (e.g., sociometric data and surveys) and experience sampling data, social network beacon data, real-time physical activity data (i.e., steps and cycling), location information, photos and chat conversation data from the app’s social media platform Social Buzz. The MyMovez project - Phase I is an innovative cross-sequential research project that investigates how social influences co-determine youth’s energy intake and expenditure. This project utilizes advanced research technologies (Wearable Lab) that provide unique opportunities to better understand the underlying processes that impact youths’ health-related behaviors. The project is theoretically and methodologically pioneering and produces a unique and useful method for successfully implementing and improving health campaigns.

BMC Public Health