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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Eating Disorder Support on the Web

Parents beware! According to researchers who surveyed the Internet viewing habits of 76 patients diagnosed with eating disorders, there are Internet Web sites that promote anorexia and bulimia as acceptable and even desirable life styles. Adolescents ages 13-to-19 are the most likely to visit these sites and half of them are looking for ways to lose weight. Many of these sites include images of thin women to inspire their visitors and include weight loss advice, strategies to avoid detection by family members, and links to other sites.

Recent articles in Health and Health Care in Schools and Pediatrics described the results of the study which collected anonymous data and reported that 41% of the patients visited pro-recovery sites, 35.5% visited pro-eating disorder sites, 25% visited both, and 48.7% visited neither. While visiting pro-eating disorder sites, 96% reported learning new weight loss or purging techniques, as did 46.4% of pro-recovery site visitors.

There were also 106 parents surveyed and 52.8% reported awareness of the pro-eating disorder sites but an equal number did not know whether their child visited these sites, and only 27.6% had discussed them with her child. Most (62.5%) parents however, 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.

Photo credit: Tiny Dancer

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.