Call to parliament to curb web sites which encourage eating disorders

An attempt to curb social networking sites and internet providers promoting eating disorders will be made through the British Parliament.

Responding to calls from concerned parties some British MP's want something done about sites whereby discussions on anorexia and bulimia are forced to behave more responsibly.

The bid to curtail so-called "pro-ana" and "pro-mia" sites and forums will highlight how some youngsters are being encouraged to indulge in "dangerous" behaviour to control their weight.

It will coincide with the start of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and has the support of doctors and campaigners who say internet service providers and some social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, are failing to tackle such issues.

The sites are regarded by many as despicable as they serve to reinforce the myth that having an eating disorder is not a problem and serve to encourage people to avoid treatment.

Experts say there are currently around 500 pro-ana and pro-mia sites and young people and their parents need to be aware of the damaging effect that pro-eating disorder websites can have on mental well-being.

Doctors say as soon as one is closed down, another starts up in its place and the sites and forums are damaging young people as they offer tips on how to be thin.

People with eating disorders are an extremely vulnerable group with very low self esteem and such sites can be very damaging as they send out the wrong advice.

Over 1.1 million Britons are known to suffer from an eating disorder, the vast majority women, while there are an estimated 366,050 sufferers in Australia.

Specialists and charities say the rise of the internet and new media has played a significant part in providing easier access to information on how to get thin.

Research has also shown that young women exposed to pro-ana websites felt more negative, had lower self-esteem, perceived themselves as heavier and were more likely to compare their bodies with other women.

A spokesperson for MySpace says it is often very difficult to distinguish between support groups for users who are suffering from eating disorders and groups that might be termed as "pro" anorexia or bulimia.

MySpace says rather than censor such groups, they are working to create partnerships with organisations which aim to support people with eating disorders.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the site supported the free flow of information and many groups relate to controversial topics; this alone they say is not a reason to disable a group.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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