Debate on restricting access to eating disorder websites needed

The proliferation of eating disorder websites that promote anorexia and bulimia have a detrimental impact on our children who are struggling with negative body images according to Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who today (Friday) called for a debate on the possibility of restricting or eliminating access to such sites.

Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking following a briefing this week on eating disorders by Bodywhys in Leinster House which coincided with Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

“Websites which promote anorexia, bulimia and aspirations to be thin in general, prey on and exploit the vulnerabilities of people whose ability to reason logically is impaired when it comes to their bodies.

“A 2009 study in the European Eating Disorder Review found that 12.6% of Belgian girls and 5.9% of boys, aged 13 to 17, had accessed pro-anorexia and bulimic websites. Official figures on the prevalence of eating disorders and the number of people accessing sites in Ireland are undocumented, with the result that many cases go unreported and untreated and a true picture of the problem is largely unknown.

“These websites contain shocking images of thin people who are termed ‘thinspirations’. Promotion of a ‘Bracelet Project’ also occurs via the sites which encourages anorexic girls to wear a blue beaded bracelet around the right wrist and bulimic suffers to wear red beaded bracelet around the left wrist to help identify other followers and foster a sense of community.

“Lists of commandments, describe as ‘The Thin Commandments ’ can also be found which instruct suffers that being thin is more important than being healthy, that the individual can never be too thin and that being thin and not eating are signs of true willpower and success.

“America, France and the UK have made efforts towards blocking access to these websites but have been unsuccessful to date. I believe it is important that Ireland also investigate ways to protect our young and vulnerable people and to learn from actions taken by other countries. We need to open up the debate and examine the best way forward in tackling this horrendous issue.”

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