As if you weren’t freaked out enough to be a parent, there is another facet to the underbelly of online communities you should be aware of. “Thinspiration” or better known as “Thinspo” are photo blogs and videos that promote anorexia under the disguise of “inspiration” and “motivation.” These site are also sometimes refered to as “Pro-ana” (pro-anorexia) and “Pro-mia” (pro-bulemia). People who strive to be anorexic are refereed to as “Wanna” or “Wannarexic.” If you do a search for Thinspiration on Google, you’ll be presented with 4 million sickening sites. Although some of the photos show a healthy weight loss, the means these girls use to get there is anything but.
A common characteristic of these images is that they take magazine photos and insert their own sayings. It’s re-ignited the never-ending battle in fashion; are models too skinny and who is to blame?
Although in April, Instagram banned pro-eating disorder images and Pinterest quickly followed suit, it is nearly impossible to control the online images. Yet, it’s important that loved ones and parents are aware of what’s going on. Susan Cowden, MS, of About.com’s Eating Disorders Guide has the following advice for parents:
- Regularly monitor your child’s or adolescent’s online activity. This may include regularly checking their email, Facebook or other social networking sites.
- Maintain open communication about any websites or topics that you find to be questionable.
- Create clear expectations and boundaries about what types of websites are off-limits in your home.
- If your child or adolescent is currently in treatment for an eating disorder (or has had an eating disorder in the past) make sure to vigilantly monitor his/her internet activity for visits to pro-eating disorder websites. Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, you may consider consulting with your child’s treatment team about whether it would be appropriate to limit internet access completely or possibly installing software to monitor and/or block such sites.