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I understand that there are web sites with recommendations for teens on how to be model thin, including directions on purging. I'm a concerned parent. Can you offer any advice?

Teenagers are the most savvy users of the internet. But whether we are talking about websites that promote eating disorders, hate crimes, or pornography, the most important thing that parents and educators can do is start talking. Open communication is key.

The topic for discussion: how to analyze and evaluate our media-rich environment --including web sites, movies, song lyrics, television. Rather than trying to censor all offensive web sites, it makes more sense in the long run to talk to our kids about what fuels dysfunctional, damaging behaviors---how they get started, and how to prevent them.

With regard to eating disorders, specifically, our children need to know the possible health outcomes of disordered eating--the inability to bear children later in life, broken bones, rotten teeth, spontaneous vomiting, and even death. At the same time, we should help students interpret media depictions of "beauty," and help them understand that media images of "beautiful" women are not real; they are constructed. Well-adjusted, media literate youth have the skills to step back from such messages, and say, "thanks, but no thanks."

For more information, visit the National Eating Disorders Association web site at: 

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D., Former Nutritional Sciences Specialist, University of Missouri-Columbia

University of Missouri Extension Site Administrator: 

Last updated:06/17/2015
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