Wondering what teens are actually doing on social networks these days? Well, according to the charity, ChildLine, many are discussing and networking about eating disorders and weight in general.
The Independent on Sunday published figures showing that the number of young people actively looking for help with eating disorders is up by 110 percent since 2011. And, ChildLine recently reported that they’ve fielded over 10,500 online inquiries and phone calls from teens and children struggling with weight-related and food-related anxiety. These inquiries were all within the last financial year.
So, what are experts contributing this major increase in eating disorder inquiries to? Well, the ChildLine charity is giving credit to a few factors, such as:
Continuous growth with the very popular celebrity culture
Spike in the number of websites and blogs dedicated to anorexia
Increase in pressure to look a certain way caused specifically by social media
Who’s Affected Most by Social Media Weight-Related Pressure?
Studies show that the social group most affected is: middle-school aged girls. From 2012 to 2013, the number of girls counseled about eating disorder issues outnumbered the number of boys counseled by 32-to-1. These are very scary odds for parents of young girls.
So, what did these girls want to talk about during the counseling sessions? Well, many were concerned about their own body images, voicing just how much they truly disliked their looks. Many continuously compare themselves to with celebrities and peers in a very negative manner. In fact, about 20 percent of these ChildLine counseling sessions with girls involved talking about their self-esteem or body image issues.
Did Social Media Kill Tallulah Wilson?
Many people are blaming the social media site, Tumblr, for causing the suicide of 15-year-old Tallulah Wilson. Others have said that social networking didn’t kill her, yet, it did nothing to help her. The London-born teen was known to frequent pro-anorexia social site. She also wrote negative things about her own body image in her diary, using words like “ugly” and “fat” to describe herself.
An inquest was conducted in order to try to come to some type of understanding about the teen’s suicide. Sarah Wilson, the young girl’s mom, spoke at the inquest, which concluded just about a week ago. According to Sarah, she and her other daughters tried everything they could imagine to help young Tallulah out of her depression. But, it was as if the teenager was being held hostage by what she called a “toxic digital world.”
Teen Suicides Not So Uncommon
During those final weeks of Tallulah’s life, she was simply unreachable. Her loved ones have contributed it to her addiction to reading online material which enables eating disorders and teen suicide. And, for the record, Tallulah is not alone.
This past August, Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old cyberbully committed suicide. The prolonged campaign to humiliate, embarrass and bully the teenaged-girl online proved to be too much for her to handle.
Then, there’s Ayden Keenan-Olson, a 14-year-old boy who also took his own life in March 2013. He used the internet, including social media sites, to do research just how many prescription pills to take to do the job right. His mom found him dead after he overdosed on pills.
UCL’s senior lecturer, Dr. Nadia Micali, authored medical research which was completed in 2013. The findings show that from 2000 to 2010, there was a 15 percent spike in the number of eating disorder diagnoses.
No one knows for sure why, but Micali does believe that it’s directly related to an increasing pressure for people to be thin. A huge amount of this pressure is believed to be coming from Teens and Social Media. So Now it is up to parents to understand the social media habits of their teens to make sure they understand the dangers of their online activity.