Do You Know What Your Daughter Is Looking At?
Here are a few terms that may be unfamiliar to parents: Thinspiration, Pro-ana, and Pro-mia If you’ve never heard these words, consider yourself blessed, because the subject matter they refer to is deeply disturbing and highly destructive.
All three terms are descriptors for websites that promote extreme dieting and “Anorexia Nervosa as a lifestyle choice.” Sadly, these “thinspo” websites have hordes of girls following them.
The sites feature galleries of photos of skeletal women (and sometimes men). Tips for losing weight are offered, and unhealthy slogans for “thin thinking” abound. Following the advice could lead to what nutritionists refer to as “disordered eating,” a major facet of eating disorders.
One Pro-ana site presents a gallery of average-sized celebrities who are scrutinised and denegrated for their flaws and “imperfect” body shape. Negative and even crude language is used to describe any size other than super-skinny.
Pro-ana (Ana meaning Anorexia; Pro-mia refers to Bulimia Nervosa) sites exalt skinniness as the only acceptable body shape, regardless of body type, bone density, and age, which is unhealthy and damaging, particularly to developing young people.
Girls who regularly visit these sites could possibly absorb some of the distorted views or have their unhealthy perceptions reinforced. And if you have a son, remember that boys are not exempt. The number of boys with diagnosed eating disorders is on the rise.
It’s a wise step to make sure your daughter (or son) is not a fan of Pro-ana sites. Thinspiration content can be found on blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest and other declining sites, such as Myspace and Xanga. Parents need to be aware of sites that promote self-harm as well. The mind boggles, but apparently some people enjoy looking at wounded limbs. Non-suicidal self injury, the clinical terminology for cutting, is a maladaptive coping strategy and may require professional intervention.
“If you are a parent, please monitor your child’s internet history.”
This plea comes from a 19-year-old Sydney girl who is on the long recovery road from an eating disorder. She fears for young people whose parents don’t know what they are looking at. Read her article here. And if you’re not sure how to check a browser history, here is a link to a video.
A content filter service such as OpenDNS and parental control software allow parents to manually select categories to block, for example, self-harm, dieting, anorexia and so forth. Be aware that the Pro-ana movement often strategically swaps to new terminology, such as “healthspo,” so it is worth updating your controls regularly.
If you find your teen has been viewing Pro-ana sites, a visit to your GP or a psychologist may be necessary. Early intervention is crucial to avoid the development of an eating disorder.