Eating Disorder Support on the Web
Some Internet Web sites promote anorexia and bulimia as acceptable and even desirable life styles. This was what researchers discovered when they surveyed the Internet viewing habits of 76 patients diagnosed with eating disorders. Adolescents aged 13 to 19 are the most common visitors to these sites: half of them are looking for ways to lose weight. Many of these sites include images of thin women designed to inspire their visitors ("thinspiration"). They also include weight loss advice, strategies to avoid detection by family members, and links to other sites.
Articles in Health and Health Care in Schools and Pediatrics described the results of the study. Researchers collected anonymous data and reported that 41percent of the patients visited pro-recovery sites, 35.5 percent visited pro-eating disorder sites, 25 percent visited both and 48.7 percent visited neither. While visiting pro-eating disorder ("pro-ana" ) sites, 96 percent reported learning new weight loss or purging techniques, as did 46.4 percent of pro-recovery site visitors.
Of the 106 parents surveyed, 52.8 percent said they were aware of the pro-eating disorder sites. However, an equal number did not know whether their child visited these sites, and only 27.6 percent had discussed the sites with their children. Most parents--62.5 percent--did not know about pro-recovery sites. The researchers reported that most parents did not limit time spent or restrict access to certain sites on the Internet, reflecting a lack of awareness on the part of parents.
For more information about eating disorders see our Teen and Preteen sites.
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Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF, however, does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Food and Nutrition Information Center of the USDA. Accessed January 2009.
National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed January 2009.
National Women's Health Information Center. Accessed January 2009.